The Middle Ages

 

What do you think about when you think of the Middle Ages? There are knights and squires, castles and cathedrals, peasants and troubadors, monks and Crusaders, pease porridge, stuffed swans, King Arthur, the Canterbury Tales, and the black plague – and much more.

See below for books, resources, projects, activities, and arts and crafts, including instructions for making your own castle, Bayeux Tapestry, and catapult.

Categories include Non-fiction: Medieval Life, Fiction, Kings and Queens, Medieval Legends, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, Medieval Art and Architecture, Plague, Hands-On Projects and Activities, and The Middle Ages at the Movies.

Also see VIKINGS.

 

NON-FICTION: MEDIEVAL LIFE

 imgres Jonathan Hunt’s Illuminations (Simon & Schuster, 1989) is a gorgeously illuminated medieval alphabet book, in which A is for Alchemist, E for Excalibur, and U for unicorn. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-1 In Aliki’s A Medieval Feast (HarperCollins, 1986), the king is coming to Camdenton Manor and the lord, lady, serfs, and villagers are in a frenzy of preparation, hunting, fishing, brewing, baking, and churning. Beautiful detailed illustrations show every step of the exciting process. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-2 Gail Gibbons’s Knights in Shining Armor (Little, Brown, 1998) is a pcture-book history of the Middle Ages with bright, attractive illustrations and a simple straightforward text. Knights, writes Gibbons, “wore strong armor and fought on horseback with deadly weapons. Their entire way of life was based on warfare.” For ages 4-8.
 imgres-3 Rachel Coombs’s A Year in a Castle (First Avenue Books, 2009) traces life in a castle month by month through the seasons of the year, beginning with moving-in day in January. The illustrations are marvelous detailed cut-away drawings with “Can you find…?” call-outs in the margins. (Can you find the guard? The priest? The well?) An interactive read for ages 5-8.
 imgres-4 Patrick O’Brien’s The Making of a Knight (Charlesbridge, 1998) traces the story of seven-year-old James who becomes a page, then a squire, and finally, triumphantly, a full-fledged knight. Included are many details about medieval life. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-21 Ann McGovern’s If You Lived in the Days of the Knights (Scholastic, 2001) is written in question-and-answer format, which makes for a great read-aloud and discussion book. Questions include “How could you tell one knight from another?” “What kinds of clothes did people wear?” “Were there bathrooms?” “Would you go to school?” and “How did you get around?” One of the “If You…” series for ages 7-10.
 imgres-5 Andrew Langley’s Medieval Life (Dorling Kindersley, 2011) is one of the popular Eyewitness series, characterized by wonderful photographs of artifacts and reproductions of historical illustrations. Each double-page spread in the book is devoted to a different topic, among them “A medieval home,” “The medieval soldier,” “The royal court,” “Building a cathedral,” and “Fairs and feast days.” For ages 7 and up.
 imgres-6 In the same series, also see Christopher Gravett’s Knight (Dorling Kindersley, 2007) and Castle (2008), and Michele Byam’s Arms and Armor (2011).
 imgres-7 Fiona MacDonald’s You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Medieval Knight! (Franklin Watts, 2013) is a clever, conversational history that points out some of the drawbacks, should you have chosen knight as your future profession. One of a series, in which the text, written in the second person, speaks directly to the reader. That, combined with the humorous cartoon-style illustrations, makes for a fun and appealing read. For ages 8-11.
 imgres-8 Also by MacDonald, see You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Crusader! (2005) and You Wouldn’t Want to Work on a Medieval Cathedral! (2010).
 imgres-9 Kathy Allen’s The Horrible Miserable Middle Ages (Capstone Press, 2011) is one of the Digusting History series, in which all the titles include such kid-appealing words as Foul, Filthy, Crude, Rotten, and Smelly. Each 32-page book covers the gickiest aspects of a given historical period – in this case, everything from messy trenchers to repulsive chamber pots, fearsome medical practices, lice, and the black plague. For ages 8-11.
 imgres-10 Barbara Hanawalt’s The Middle Ages An Illustrated History (Oxford University Press, 1999) is a scholarly, but entertaining, 160-page history, illustrated with photographs of artifacts, maps, period artwork, and more. A thorough introduction for ages 12 and up.
 imgres-11 William Manchester’s A World Lit Only by Fire (Little, Brown, 1993) was a best-seller. An absorbing narrative history of the Middle Ages for teenagers and adults. Don’t get your high-school-level kids a textbook. Get this.
 imgres-12 By Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger, The Year 1000 (Back Bay Books, 2000) is a delightful read describing, in twelve chapters, what life was like for the English at the turn of the first millennium. Find out how people managed without buttons or sugar.
 imgres-13 Also by Danny Danziger, see the equally reader-friendly and absorbing 1215: The Year of the Magna Carta (Touchstone, 2005).
 imgres-14 By David Howarth – a wonderful history writer – 1066: The Year of the Conquest (Penguin Books, 1981) is a short (200 pages) account of the pivotal year in English history when William the Conqueror defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. The book contrasts life in the little village of Horstede before and after William took over. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-15 The Battle of Hastings Game is an interactive exercise in which players re-enact the famous battle. You have a choice of playing as either William or Harold.
 imgres-16 By Joseph and Frances Gies, Life in a Medieval Castle (Harper Perennial, 1979) is a fascinating history, packed with human interest, appealing information, and primary sources. (It begins with a bang, with the arrival of a thousand longboats, bearing the vast army of William the Conqueror.) For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-17 By the same authors, also see Life in a Medieval Village (HarperPerennial, 1991), Life in a Medieval City (HarperCollins, 1981), and Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages (1995).
 imgres-19 Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England (Touchstone, 2011), subtitled “A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century,” is just that: readers find out how to greet people in the street, what to expect in towns and villages, where to stay along the way, what to wear – even what to use for toilet paper. A real look at the medieval world for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-20 Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror (Random House, 1987) is a fat (700+ pages) but fascinating account of the “calamitous 14th century,” much of it centering around French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy, who played a surprisingly large part in it. A great read for interested teenagers and adults.
 images Mr. Donn’s Medieval Times topics are categorized under Power of the Secular Rulers, Daily Life, and Power of the Catholic Church. There’s a lot of kid-friendly material to explore. For example, visitors learn about Justinian’s Code, Mythical Medieval Beasts, Medieval Music, the Inquisition, Holy Relics, and Illuminated Manuscripts. Generally aimed at an upper-elementary and middle-school audience.
 imgres-22 Khan Academy’s Medieval Europe is a multifaceted study unit in five parts: A beginner’s guide to medieval Europe; Books and the dissemination of knowledge in medieval Europe; Early Christian; Byzantine; and Latin (Western) Europe. Lots of well-presented, illustrated information.
 images-1 Mostly Medieval has information on ballads, Books of Days, heraldry, fabulous medieval beasts, the medieval church, and medieval medicine.
 images-2 From Annenberg Learner, Middle Ages is an interactive tour of the period. Visitors can read about feudal life, identify a collapsed cathedral, learn about medieval medicine, and view a medieval tapestry. Included is a list of links to primary source materials.
 images From the Stanford History Education Group, the Medieval Curriculum has a downloadable collection of lesson plans, document sets, and timelines. Sample topics include the Dark Ages, Expansion of the Islamic Empire, First Crusade, and Understanding the Black Death. This is a subset of the Reading Like a Historian curriculum, targeted at high-school-level students.
 images From the BBC, The Middle Ages has a series of interesting essays, categorized under such topics as John and Richard I: Brothers and Rivals, Invasion, Conquest, and the Hundred Years War, The Black Death, and the Houses of Lancaster and York.
 images-3 The Great Courses – which sells high-school- and college-level lecture series on CD, DVD, or as downloads – includes a three-part course on the Middle Ages (“The Early Middle Ages,” “The Late Middle Ages,” and “The High Middle Ages”). Each consists of 24 half-hour lectures by history professor Philip Dalleader of the College of William and Mary. (At full price, the cost is intimidating, but all of the Great Courses go on sale periodically, at substantial savings.) Recommended for college-level learners, but fine for interested high-school-level students.
 imgres-23 Terry Jones’s Medieval Lives (2004) is a television documentary produced for the BBC with the aim of separating medieval mythology from the real thing. (Truth: Richard the Lionheart was a lousy king.) The eight episodes in the series are The Peasant, The Monk, The Damsel, The Minstrel, The Knight, The Philosopher, The Outlaw, and The King. Available on YouTube.
 imgres-24 Terry Jones’s The Barbarians (2006) shows that the “barbarians” who brought about the fall of Rome and ushered in the Dark Ages weren’t as primitive and uncivilized as history portrays them. The four episodes in the series are The Primitive Celts, The Savage Goths, The Brainy Barbarians, and The End of the World. Available on YouTube.
 imgres-25 From Fordham University, The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is an enormous compendium of categorized primary sources. Various categories include End of Rome, Celtic World, Crusades, Carolingians, France, England, Medieval Church, and Social History. A terrific resource. Also check out the Ancient History Sourcebook and Modern History Sourcebook.
 images TEAMS is a consortium for the teaching of the Middle Ages, established to support medieval studies at the elementary, secondary, and undergraduate levels. See the site for online texts and an extensive list of teaching resources. Click on “Medieval Studies in the Schools” for a list of the top 15 topics to cover, with links.

FICTION

 imgres-26 In Tomie DePaola’s The Knight and the Dragon (Puffin, 1998), a cluelessly innocent knight and dragon realize that they’re supposed to fight each other – so each resorts to how-to books, then to solitary practice. The dragon makes fearsome faces in the mirror and swishes his tail; the knight accumulates a stock of armor and weapons. The fight, which it’s clear nobody is enthusiastic about, is a flop; and the pair are saved by the arrival of a friendly medieval librarian with books that show them how to share their real talents. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-27 In Mary Pope Osborne’s The Knight at Dawn (Random House, 1993), second in the Magic Treehouse series, Jack and Annie travel to the Middle Ages, where they encounter a castle, a feast, and a moat full of crocodiles, narrowly escape being hanged, and ultimately meet a helpful knight in shining armor. For ages 6-9.
  Also see Osborne’s Knights and Castles Fact Tracker (Random House, 2000), an illustrated 128-page non-fiction companion to The Knight at Dawn, filled with the real info on castle life. Included, for example, are accounts of castle architecture, medieval festivals and fairs, and medieval battles and sieges.
 imgres-28 In the first of the books starring the slapstick Time Warp Trio, Jon Scieszka’s Knights of the Kitchen Table (Puffin, 2004), Joe is given a magical book as a birthday gift from his wizard uncle, and he and his two best friends are transported to King Arthur’s Britain, where they are disastrously mistaken for heroes. For ages 7-9.
 imgres-29 In Clyde Robert Bulla’s The Sword in the Tree (HarperCollins, 2000), young Shan and his mother, son and wife of Lord Weldon, are driven from their lands by Lionel, Lord Weldon’s unscrupulous brother. Shan hides his father’s sword in an old oak tree to keep it out of Lionel’s hands and heads for Camelot, to ask King Arthur himself for justice. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-30 Sharon Creech’s The Castle Corona (HarperCollins, 2013) is a medieval fairytale, featuring Pia and Enzio, a pair of peasant children who have found a stolen pouch stamped with the king’s seal, King Guido and Queen Gabriella and family, who live in luxury in the glittering Castle Corona, and the king’s hermit advisor. By the end of the book, each – from their various stations in life – has come to understand the other a little better, and all ends “happily, most of the time.” For ages 8-12.
 imgres-31 In Cornelia Funke’s Igraine the Brave (Chicken House, 2006), Igraine wants to be a knight like her famous great-grandfather. On her twelfth birthday, she’s given a magical suit of armor – which, disastrously, results in her parents being turned into pigs. Igraine and her brother are left to defend their castle from the evil Osmond the Greedy, protect their family’s horde of magic books, and deal with the pig spell. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-32 In Edward Eager’s Knight’s Castle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999), four kids – via magic, a toy castle, and an army of toy soldiers – are transported back to the days of Ivanhoe. Much of it is tongue-in-cheek – for example, the kids can change events in the magical world by re-arranging and adding things to the castle in the real world – and the action doesn’t quite tie up as Sir Walter Scott had intended. A delightful read for ages 8-12.
 imgres-33 The Adam of Elizabeth Janet Gray’s Newbery-winning Adam of the Road (Puffin, 2006) is the son of Roger, a wandering minstrel; along with dog, Nick, the two travel through 13th-century England. Then Nick is stolen, Roger disappears, and Adam sets out to find them – which isn’t easy. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-34 In Marguerite de Angeli’s The Door in the Wall (Yearling, 1990), originally published in 1949, young Robin had assumed that he would become a knight like his father – until an illness makes him unable to walk. His father is away at war, his mother is serving as lady-in-waiting to the queen, and – fearing the plague – the servants abandon Robin, leaving him helpless and alone. He is saved by kind Brother Luke from a nearby monastery, who teaches Robin to swim, to make and play a harp, and to find his “door in the wall” – that is, if you keep trying in the face of challenge, eventually you’ll find a way to succeed. Good book and great message for ages 8-12.
 imgres-35 In Elizabeth Winthrop’s The Castle in the Attic (Yearling, 1994), William is given a gift of a wonderful model of a castle, guarded by a little silver knight, Sir Simon, said to be under a spell. Magically, William and Mrs. Philips, the housekeeper, enter the world of the castle where – after many adventures – William manages to defeat an evil wizard and get the pair of them home again. For ages 9-12.
  In the sequel, The Battle for the Castle (1994), William and his best friend Jason return to the castle, this time to battle an army of demonic rats.
 imgres-36 By Richard Platt, Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess (Candlewick, 2003) is the (imaginary) 13th-century diary of eleven-year-old Tobias, a page, in which he describes everyday events and special occasions – a tournament, a visit from an earl. Illustrated. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-37 By Laura Amy Schlitz, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (Candlewick, 2011), set in 1255 and subtitled “Voices from a Medieval Village,” tells the story of 22 different medieval characters in short, wonderful vignettes – among them Hugo, the lord’s nephew, Mogg, the villein’s daughter, Simon, the knight’s son, Piers, the glassblower’s apprentice, and Giles, the beggar. Highly recommended. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-38 Karen Cushman’s Catherine Called Birdy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) is the irreverent diary of 14-year-old Catherine, a nobleman’s daughter and proto-feminist, unhappy with the suitors her father produces for her. The book begins “I am commanded to write an account of my days: I am bit by fleas and plagued by my family.” For ages 12 and up.
  Other novels by Cushman set in the medieval period include The Midwife’s Apprentice (1995), Alchemy and Meggy Swann (2010), Will Sparrow’s Road (2012), and Matilda Bone (2000).
 imgres-39 In Kathryn Erskine’s The Badger Knight (Scholastic, 2013), 13-year-old Adrian is both small for his age and an albino (“puny, sickly, and pale as milk”) – but nonetheless, even though his father wants him to become a scribe, Adrian wants to be an archer. When the Scots invade England, Adrian runs away to join his best friend Hugh – and finds that war is not as simple or as straightforward as he had believed. A coming of age story for ages 10-13.
 imgres-40 In Frances Temple’s The Ramsay Scallop (HarperCollins, 1995), set in 1299, 14-year-old Eleanor is dismayed at the prospect of marriage to her betrothed, Thomas, newly returned from eight years of fighting in the Crusades. The wise town priest sends the pair on a pilgrimage to Spain, an eye-opening experience during which – through meeting many different people – they learn about the wider world, themselves, and their feelings for each other. For ages 11-14.
 imgres-41 Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn (Roc, 1991) is an enchanting fantasy in which the unicorn who lives in a lilac wood is the last of her kind in the world. She sets off in search of others, in company with Schmendrick, an inept magician, and the cynical, but still believing, Molly Grue; ultimately the three have to confront the cruel King Haggard and the fearsome Red Bull. And, of course, rescue the unicorns. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-42 The Last Unicorn (1982) is a well-done animated film based on the book with Mia Farrow as the voice of the unicorn, Tammy Grimes as Molly Grue, and Alan Arkin as Schmendrick. Rated G.
 imgres-43 In Avi’s Newbery winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead (Disney-Hyperion, 2004), set in 14th-century England, Crispin – wrongly accused of theft by the corrupt manor steward – is forced to flee, taking with him only an engraved lead cross that belonged to his mother. Then he links up with Orson Hrothgar, a traveling juggler known as Bear, who gradually encourages Crispin to think for himself, and helps protect Crispin from his pursuers. Eventually Crispin, in turn, is able to save Bear – and to find out who he really is. The first of a trilogy for ages 12 and up.
 imgres-44 Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael mystery series is set in the 12th century, at a time of civil war in England between rival claimants to the throne. Brother Cadfael, monk, herbalist, and veteran of the Crusades, has a dry sense of humor and a knack for solving mysteries. Book one of the series is A Morbid Taste for Bones (Grand Central Publishing, 1994). Fun reads for ages 13 and up.
 imgres-45 Cadfael (1994-1996) is a 13-episode TV series, starring Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael. The complete collection is available on DVD or as an Amazon instant video.

 KINGS AND QUEENS

 imgres-46 In E.L. Konigsberg’s A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (Atheneum Books, 2001), Eleanor of Aquitaine is in heaven, impatiently awaiting the arrival of her husband, King Henry II. As she waits, she and the important people in her life tell her life story. Highly recommended.
A Queen, Two Kings, and a Kingdom has a detailed summary of the book, with suggested discussion questions and activities.
 images-4 In the Royal Diaries series, Kristiana Gregory’s Eleanor: Crown Jewel of Aquitaine, 1136 (Scholastic, 2002) is the story of the brilliant young Eleanor, who becomes queen of France at the age of 15. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-47 The Lion in Winter (1968) is a must-see. The year is 1183; King Henry II’s three sons – Richard, Geoffrey, and John – are angling to inherit the throne; and Henry has just let his wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, out of prison to attend the Christmas court. Peter O’Toole plays Henry; Katharine Hepburn is Eleanor. Rated PG.
 imgres-48 Jean Anouilh’s Becket (Riverhead, 1995) is the renowned play on which the 1964 film (see below) is based. It tells the story of King Henry II and friend Thomas Becket, who part ways when Thomas becomes Archbishop of Canterbury. Eventually Becket’s refusal to bend his conscience and obey the king leads to his murder. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-49 Becket (1964), the film version of Jean Anouilh’s play, features Peter O’Toole as Henry II and Richard Burton as Becket. A superb performance. Rated PG-13.
 imgres-50 T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral (Harcourt, 1964) is a verse dramatization of the 12th-century murder of Thomas Becket at the behest of Henry II. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-51 Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V – based on Shakespeare’s play – is the story of the young king’s conquest of France, ending with the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Rated PG-13.
 imgres-52 Medieval Kings has biographies and timelines of all the medieval kings of England, including a discussion of King Arthur (real and legendary). (See more on Arthur, below.) Check out the short poem that serves as a mnemonic for learning the names of all the monarchs of England in order.
 imgres-53 Middle Ages: Famous Queens has brief biographies of some notable medieval women, among them Queen Maude, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Margaret of Anjou, and Elizabeth of York.

MEDIEVAL LEGENDS

 imgres-54 By Margaret Hodges, Saint George and the Dragon (Little, Brown, 1990) is an exquisitely illustrated classic version of the tale. (The pages all have stained-glass-window-like borders.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-55 Kenneth Grahame’s The Reluctant Dragon (Square Fish, 1998) is my favorite of all Saint George tales. The dragon would much rather stay peacefully in his cave writing poetry – but upset townspeople send for Saint George and clamor for a battle. All ends happily, however, with the help of a sympathetic boy who has become the dragon’s friend. For ages 7-11.
Saint George and the Dragon has a summary of the tale and a list of links on the legendary saint.
 imgres-56 In George and the Dragon (2004), George, just home from the grueling Crusades, is ready to hang up his sword and settle down in the north of England. There, however, all is chaos; the kingdom’s princess has disappeared. George eventually finds her protecting what she believes may be the last dragon’s egg. Rated PG.
 imgres-57 For many more dragon books, resources, and activities, see DRAGONS.
  imgres-59 By Rosemary Sutcliff, see Tristan and Iseult (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999), a retelling of the classic medieval Celtic tale of star-crossed lovers. Tristan, warrior of Cornwall, is in love with Iseult, a red-haired Irish princess, who is the promised bride of Mark, the King of Cornwall, and Tristan’s uncle. This doesn’t end well. For ages 10-14.
From Project Gutenberg, another version of The Romance of Tristan and Iseult.
 imgres Beasts and Myths of the Middle Ages is a colorfully illustrated collection, variously covering the dragon, phoenix, griffin, mandrake, and unicorn (and more), plus such famous legendeary figures as Robin Hood, Merlin, and King Arthur.

KING ARTHUR AND THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE

 imgres-60 In Kenneth Kraegel’s King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson (Candlewick, 2012), Henry is the many-times-great-grandson of King Arthur – so on his sixth birthday, he mounts his faithful donkey (Knuckles) and rides off to battle a Dragon, a Griffin, and even the sea monster Leviathan, looking for “a test of might and courage!” It doesn’t turn out as Henry expected, but he finds some new friends. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-61 The Great Illustrated Classics series are simplified versions of dozens of classic books, targeted at ages 7-10. Most are about 200 pages long, with black-and-white illustrations and biggish print. They’re intended to give kids the sense of and enjoyment for the stories, so that when they move on to the adult versions of – say – David Copperfield, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, or Moby Dick – they’ll be primed for the transition. Among these, for those studying the Middle Ages, are versions of Howard Pyle’s King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.
 imgres-62 Margaret Hodges’s The Kitchen Knight (Holiday House, 1993) is the story of young Gareth, who comes to King Arthur’s court as a kitchen boy, and eventually vanquishes the fearsome Knight of the Red Plain and wins the hand of the Lady Linesse. Lavish medieval-style illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman. For ages 7-11.
 imgres-63 T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone (Philomel, 1993) is the first part of White’s larger work, The Once and Future King (see below). It covers the young Arthur’s childhood, his meeting with Merlin, his magical schooling, and finally his pulling of the sword from the stone, revealing him as the king.  It’s clever, funny, poignant, and wonderful – and bears not much, if any, resemblance to the Disney movie of the same name. Highly recommended for ages 9 and up.
 imgres-64 T.H. White’s The Once and Future King (Ace Trade, 2011), originally published in 1958, is a brilliant re-telling of the story of King Arther, divided into four main parts: The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. Only the first part, The Sword in the Stone (see above), is suitable for young kids – but for teenagers and up, it’s a wonderful read. Highly recommended.
 imgres-65 Rosemary Sutcliff – who writes excellent historical fiction – has adapted the story of King Arthur into a trilogy: The Sword and the Circle, The Light Beyond the Forest, and The Road to Camlann (Puffin, 1994). For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-66 Gerald Morris’s The Squire’s Tale (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008) is the first of a series that combines Arthurian legend with original plotlines. In this first book, young Terence, an orphan, becomes squire to Gawain, one of the knights of the Round Table, and embarks on a life of magic and adventure. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-67 In Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court, originally published in 1889 and now available in many editions, Hank Morgan, an engineer, is knocked unconscious by a whack from a crowbar and wakes up over a thousand year in the past, in the days of King Arthur. He’s nearly burned as a witch, but manages to save himself by predicting an eclipse; he then becomes famed in Camelot for his technological “miracles” involving gunpowder, electricity, and fireworks, which land him on the bad side of Merlin. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-68 From Greathall Productions, Jim Weiss’s wonderfully narrated King Arthur and His Knights includes eight Arthurian stories: The Sword in the Stone, King Arthur and Guinevere, Sir Percival Meets a Lady, The Round Table, Sir Lancelot’s Journey, A Queen, Sir Bedivere, and Merlin’s Magic. Weiss is one of our favorite storytellers. Available on CD. (Listen to a sample at the website.)
 images-5 Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (Penguin, 1989), published between 1859 and 1885, is a series of twelve narrative poems based on the King Arthur legends. For fans of Anne of Green Gables, this is one of Anne’s favorites.
See Project Gutenberg’s Idylls of the King online.
 imgres-69 From the University of Rochester, The Camelot Project lists Arthurian authors and texts (many), artists and images, characters from the stories, and symbols and motifs found in the Arthurian legends.
 images-6 Lerner and Loewe’s musical Camelot (1967) – loosely based on T.H. White’s The Once and Future King – is a delightful romantic fantasy. Rated G.
 imgres-70 Excalibur (1981) – named for King Arthur’s magical sword – is a grim, but impressive, version of the Arthurian story, starting with Uther Pendragon and ending with Arthur being conveyed to Avalon. Rated R.

ROBIN HOOD

 imgres-71 By Marcia Williams, The Adventures of Robin Hood (Candlewick, 1995) is a panel-cartoon-style re-telling of eleven tales of Robin Hood and his merry men, with wonderful detailed illustrations. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-72 Roger Lancelyn Green’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (Puffin, 2010) is an entertaining version of the Robin Hood tales with all the main characters: minstrel Allan a Dale, Little John with his quarterstaff, Maid Marian, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and the famous archery contest in which Robin wins the golden arrow. A good pick for ages 8-12.
 imgres-73 Kathryn Lasky’s Hawksmaid (HarperCollins, 2010) is the “untold story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian.” Here, Marian – known as Matty – learns to handle (and speak the language of) her father’s hawks after followers of Prince John loot her parents’ castle and murder her mother. In company with her friend Fynn, she becomes a leader of a band of boys who rob from the rich to give to the poor – and as they grow older, she and Fynn, now Maid Marian and Robin Hood, do their best to rescue England from the clutches of John. For ages 10-13.
From the University of Rochester, The Robin Hood Project includes a history of Robin Hood, book and image lists, and an annotated list of Robin Hood characters.
 imgres-74 In the Disney animated version of Robin Hood, all the characters are animals: Robin and Marian as foxes, Prince John a sulky lion, and the Sheriff of Nottingham, a wolf. Rated G.
 imgres-75 Still one of the best version of the Robin Hood story on screen is The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), starring Errol Flynn as Robin, Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian, and Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisbourne. Rated PG.

THE CANTERBURY TALES

 imgres-76 Geoffrey Chaucer’s Chanticleer and the Fox (HarperCollins, 1992) is a picture-book version of the famous story from The Canterbury Tales, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, in which Chanticleer’s conceit and susceptibility to flattery nearly get him eaten by the fox. Luckily some quick thinking saves the day. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-77 By Marcia Williams, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Walker Books, 2008) is a delightful retelling of nine of the tales in panel-cartoon form, with detailed and colorful little illustrations. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-78 Geraldine McCaughrean’s The Canterbury Tales (Puffin Classics, 1997) is a lively and very reader-friendly 110+-page prose retelling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic for ages 12 and up. Includes 13 of the original 24 pilgrim’s tales.
 imgres-79 In K.M. Grant’s Belle’s Song (Walker Children’s Books, 2011), fifteen-year-old Belle, daughter of a crippled bellmaker, sets off on a pilgrimage to Canterbury to pray that her father will walk again. She’s accompanied by writer Geoffrey Chaucer, his scribe, Luke, a handsome young squire named Walter, and a motley band of pilgrims. Then she discovers that Chaucer is involved in a dangerous political intrigue centered around the court of Richard II. For ages 12 and up.

 BEOWULF

 imgres-89 Michael Morpurgo’s Beowulf (Candlewick, 2006) is a retelling of the epic tale, originally written sometime between the 8th and the 11th centuries, of the young warrior who comes to save the Danes from a pair of terrifying monsters, including the fearsome Grendel. Illustrated with full-page paintings. For ages 12 and up. It’s scary.
 imgres-90 Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf (W.W. Norton and Company, 2001) is a beautifully done “new verse translation.” It’s bilingual, in Old and modern English. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-91 John Gardner’s Grendel (Vintage, 1969) is a re-telling of the Beowulf epic from the monster’s point of view. Fascinating and heartbreaking. For teenagers and adults.
From Project Gutenberg, another version of Beowulf.
Slaying Monsters” is an interesting article on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beowulf from the New Yorker.
 imgres-92 In The 13th Warrior (1999) – set in the 10th century and based on the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton – a young Arab poet travels with a party of Vikings to the north, where he becomes embroiled in combatting a horrible and mysterious monster. Reminiscent of Beowulf. Rated R.

MEDIEVAL ART AND ARCHITECTURE

 imgres-80 In art historian Bruce Robertson’s beautifully illustrated Marguerite Makes a Book (J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999), set in Paris in the 1400s, Marguerite’s father has a commission to illuminate a book of hours for his patron, Lady Isabelle. Marguerite does her best to help, running errands to collect parchment, quills, and paint ingredients – and when her nearly blind father breaks his precious glasses, she steps in to complete the manuscript herself. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-81 W.O. Hassell’s A Medieval Alphabet to Illuminate (Bellerophon Books, 1983) and Theodore Menten’s The Illuminated Alphabet (Dover Publications, 1971) are both coloring books for would-be medieval-style illuminators. Based on medieval manuscripts.
 imgres-82 From the British Library, Illuminated Manuscripts is an online gallery of manuscripts from the 8th to the 15th century.
 images-7 The Gutenberg Bible site has information about Johann Gutenberg, his world-changing printing process, and images from the Gutenberg Bible.
 imgres-83 Make some illuminated letters of your own. See Illuminations: A Lesson in the Art of Illuminated Letters.
 images-8 Medieval Art: A Resource for Educators, a free download from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a 190+-page publication covering the history of medieval art, period by period and the techniques used by medieval artists, along with a color-illustrated, annotated gallery of wonderful medieval images from the museum collection. Included are detailed lesson plans on medieval gardens, medieval bestiaries, medieval symbolism and heraldry, and medieval art techniques (including weaving, mosaic, and stained-glass projects). For a range of ages.
 imgres-84 Readers can explore a castle layer by layer in Stephen Biesty’s Cross-sections Castle (Dorling Kindersley, 2013) and learn about the lives of its inhabitants. Included are helpful “You are here” points and photographs of artifacts. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-85 David Macauley’s Castle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1982) is the marvelously illustrated story of the building of a magnificent castle in 13th-century Wales. The book takes readers step by step through planning and construction, ending with the castle playing a part in a battle and siege. Highly recommended for ages 8-12.
There’s a terrific animated adaptation of Macauley’s Castle, available on YouTube from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
 imgres-86 In the same format, see Macauley’s Cathedral (1981) and its excellent animated adaptation.
 imgres-87 The Bayeux Tapestry – really an embroidery – depicts the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and its aftermath. The site has images of the entire tapestry (35 parts).
 imgres-88 From the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, How Medieval and Renaissance Tapestries Were Made explains just that. Included is a slide show of tapestries.
Check out the Animated Bayeux Tapestry

PLAGUE!

 imgres-93 James Cross Giblin’s When Plague Strikes (HarperCollins, 1997) is a fascinating overview of three terrible diseases – the black plague that wiped out a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century, smallpox, and AIDS – covering their causes and their effects on civilization. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-94 Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Masque of the Red Death, first published in 1842, is the chilling Gothic tale of Prince Prospero’s vain attempts to avoid a black-plague-like malady called the Red Death.
 imgres-95 Connie Willis’s The Doomsday Book (Spectra, 1993) is set in a future Oxford, where history students participate in time travel. The main character, Kivrin, traveling back to the Middle Ages, is mistakenly sent to 1348, at the peak of the Black Death. At the same time, a pandemic rages in the 21st century. For teenagers and adults.
 images-9 From the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, see Medicine in the Middle Ages.

HANDS-ON PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES

 imgres-96 Laurie Carlson’s Days of Knights and Damsels (Chicago Review Press, 1998) is a collection of creative medieval-style activities, recipes, and games. Kids can make a princess hat, a cloak, a crown, and a knight’s helmet; whip up a batch of porridge, make a blackbird pie, or eat lunch out of a trencher; try their hands at draughts and 9 Men’s Morris; and make a set of medieval character finger puppets. And more. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-97 Kris Bordessa’s Great Medieval Projects You Can Build Yourself (Nomad Press, 2008) is divided into 12 informative chapters with maps, drawings, “Words to Know” lists, and accompanying hands-on projects. For example, kids make butter and pretzels, chain mail, a helmet, a set of juggling sticks, and a model trebuchet. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-98 From Bellerophon Books, A Coloring Book of the Middle Ages (1985) has images from the unicorn tapestry and from medieval manuscripts, along with black-line pictures of such medieval greats as King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Charlemagne, and William the Conqueror.
 imgres-99 John Green’s Life in a Medieval Castle and Village Coloring Book (Dover Publications, 1990) includes a brief informational text and 42 ready-to-color black-line drawings of scenes from daily life in castle, village, monastery, and farm.
Similarly themed coloring books from Dover include A.G. Smith’s Knights and Armor Coloring Book (1985) and Castles of the World Coloring Book (1986), and Tom Tierney’s Medieval Fashions Coloring Book (1998).
 paper-castle-pic From A Book in Time, Medieval Crafts has instructions for making a medieval border, a triptych, a cereal-box castle with paper soldiers, a stained glass window (using melted crayons), a coat-of-arms shield, a crown, and a jester’s hat.
 Spiderman From Built by Kids, How to Build a Cardboard Castle has instructions for a terrific kid-sized castle. Materials include big cardboard boxes, colored tape, and markers.
 imgres Rosemary Chorzempa’s Design Your Own Coat of Arms (Dover Publications, 1987) is a workbook-style introduction to heraldry for ages 9-12.
 images Inexpensive DIY white cardboard shields (ready for decorating) are available from the Oriental Trading Company and from S&S Worldwide Arts & Crafts.
 20150314_110931 How to Make a Play Sword and Shield has step-by-step illustrated instructions, starting with a large cardboard carton. (Note: cardboard is hard to cut with scissors. We’ve had better luck with a box cutter. Just don’t let younger kids get their hands on it.)
 imgres From NOVA, Secrets of the Medieval Siege has an illustrated description of a medieval arms race, a slide show of NOVA’s successful attempt to build and fire a giant trebuchet, and an account of life in a medieval castle. Also at the site, Destroy the Castle is an interactive online science project in which players design a trebuchet capable of crushing a castle wall.

THE MIDDLE AGES AT THE MOVIES

 imgres The Princess Bride (1987) – based on the wonderful novel by William Goldman (featured on many recommended high-school reading lists) – is a classic and clever medieval-style fairy tale, complete with a pirate, a wicked prince, a beautiful princess, a giant, a swordsman, and a swamp full of RUSs – that is, Rodents of Unusual Size. In the frame story, a grandfather (Peter Falk) is reading the story as a bedside tale to his little grandson. One of our all-time favorites. Rated PG.
 imgres Directed by Ron Howard, Willow (1988) is the magical medieval story of an unlikely hero – the dwarf Willow Ufgood – who must save the baby girl destined to bring about the downfall of the evil sorceress Queen Bavmorda. Rated PG.
 imgres Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), now a cult classic, is a hilarious take on the Arthurian legend, featuring the Trojan Rabbit, the cowardly Sir Robin, a famously insulting French soldier, and the Black Beast of Arrrggggh. A completely different view of the knights of the Round Table. Rated PG.
 imgres Ladyhawke (1985) is a lovely medieval fantasy in which a young thief aids two lovers, Captain Navarre and Lady Isabeau, who have been placed under a curse by an evil Bishop. Navarre is a wolf by night; Isabeau, a hawk by day – and they can only glimpse each other briefly at sunrise. Rated PG-13.
 imgres El Cid (1961) is the tale of the legendary Castilian nobleman Rodrigo Diaz, known as El Cid, who defends Christian Spain against the invading Moors. Charlton Heston plays El Cid.  Unrated. Over three hours long.
 imgres The Seventh Seal (1957), written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, is set in Sweden at the time of the Black Death. The main character, played by Max von Sydow, is a knight, newly returned from the Crusades, who ends up playing chess with Death himself. A classic of world cinema. Not rated, but definitely for teenagers and adults.
 imgres The Name of the Rose (1986), set in the 14th century and based on Umberto Eco’s novel, is the story of an intellectually ahead-of-his-time monk, William of Baskerville (Sean Connery), and his novice assistant (Christian Slater) attempting to solve the mystery of mysterious deaths at a Benedictine Abbey and save a young woman from being burned as a witch by the Inquisition. Beautifully done. Rated R.
 images Braveheart (1975) pops up on almost all lists of best medieval-themed movies, though it’s not for the weak of stomach or faint of heart. Mel Gibson plays William Wallace, the hero who led the Scots against the English under King Edward I, also known as Longshanks. Lots of slaughter. Rated R.

 

 

 

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Lewis Carroll and Alice

 

Lewis Carroll is the pen name of British mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, author of the brilliantly creative Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. See below for books, games, puzzles, poems, and an Alice-style House of Cards that you can build yourself.

 

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,

“To talk of many things:

Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax –

Of cabbages – and kings –

And why the sea is boiling hot –

And whether pigs have wings.”

 

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

 imgres Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, originally published in 1865, and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) have been in print ever since, and are now available in many different editions. I’d recommend those with the original John Tenniel illustrations. For ages 7 and up.
 imgres-1 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been translated into literally dozens of foreign languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu. Available through Amazon are Alice in Latin (Alicia in Terra Mirabili), French (Alice au Pays des Merveilles), German (Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland), Spanish (Alicia en el Pais de las Maravillas), Italian (Le Avventure di Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie), and Chinese.
 imgres-2 Project Gutenberg, which offers tens of thousands of free online books, has a long list of titles by Lewis Carroll, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in English, German, and Italian.
 imgres-3 At the British Library website, page through the original handwritten and illustrated manuscript of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Included are a typewritten transcript and an audio option.

 MORE VERSIONS OF ALICE

 imgres-4 Jennifer Adams’s Alice in Wonderland (Gibbs Smith, 2012)  in the BabyLit series is a board book that uses images from Alice to teach colors, via a white rabbit, orange Cheshire Cat, blue Caterpillar, and Queen of (red) Hearts. For ages 1-3.
 imgres-5 By Lewis Carroll and brilliant paper engineer Robert Sabuda, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-Up Adaptation (Little Simon, 2003) is a work of art, with 3-D Tenniel-style images, inserted small booklets, a Victorian peep show (of Alice falling down the rabbit hole), and a fuzzy Cheshire cat. For ages 4-12.
 imgres-6 Adapted by Lewis Helfand, Alice in Wonderland: The Graphic Novel (Campfire, 2010) is one of a large series of well-done graphic adaptations of classic novels. See the complete list at the Campfire Graphic Novels website. For ages 7-11.
 imgres-7 By Lewis Carroll with extensive notes by Martin Gardner, The Annotated Alice (W.W. Norton, 1999) is a fascinating read, with full text and illustrations of both Alice books, and crammed with extra tidbits of information. Included, for example, are French and German versions of the poem “Jabberwocky,” a discussion of puns, and several possible answers to the Mad Hatter’s riddle “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?” The annotations are in the wide margins of the text, so readers don’t have to keep flipping pages back and forth.
 imgres-8 By Catherine Nichols, Alice’s Wonderland (Race Point Publishing, 2014), subtitled “A Visual Journey through Lewis Carroll’s Mad, Mad World,” is a beautifully designed and illustration-packed book showing the many ways in which Alice has been interpreted by visual artists. Chapters include “Alice’s Illustrators,” “Alice on Stage,” “Animated Alice,” and “Alice in Books and Music.” For ages 12 and up, but everybody will love the pictures.
  Author A.S. Byatt’s There’s something about Alice is a fascinating essay on her relationship with Alice and other classic children’s books.

ABOUT LEWIS CARROLL

 imgres-9 Christina Bjork’s The Other Alice (R&S Books, 1993) packs a lot of information into 100 illustrated pages: included is the story of the friendship between Carroll and Alice Liddell and how Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came to be written, accounts of Victorian childhood, period photographs of Oxford, and more. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-11 In Simon Winchester’s The Alice Behind Wonderland (Oxford University Press, 2011), the author uses Lewis Carroll’s 1858 photograph of six-year-old Alice Liddell, costumed as “The Beggar Maid,” to tell the story of the real Alice for whom Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. For teenagers and adults.
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, see Lewis Carroll’s photograph of Alice Liddle as the Beggar Maid.
 imgres-12 Stephanie Lovett Stoffel’s Lewis Carroll in Wonderland: The Life and Times of Alice and Her Creator (Harry N. Abrams, 1997) is a richly illustrated account of Carroll’s life and the Victorian era in which he lived. For teenagers and up.
 imgres-13 Morton Cohen’s Lewis Carroll (Vintage, 1996) is generally accepted as the definitive biography of Carroll. It’s over 600 pages long and intended for the dedicated older reader.
 imgres-14 Also see Jenny Woolf’s chattier and shorter The Mystery of Lewis Carroll (St. Martin’s Press, 2010).  For teenagers and adults.
Jenny Woolf’s Lewis Carroll’s Shifting Reputation is an article on Carroll’s life and work published in Smithsonian magazine, April 2010.
 imgres-15 Lewis Carroll is a short biography from the Poetry Foundation.
 imgres-15 The Lewis Carroll Society of North America website has links to Carroll’s online texts, a photography collection, Lewis Carroll puzzles and games, a list of Carroll-inspired fiction books, and an extensive list of educational resources.
 imgres-16 The Victorian Web’s Lewis Carroll page has a wealth of information, including a gallery of Tenniel illustrations, a character map of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, literary essays, and social commentary.

 PHILOSOPHY AND ALICE

 imgres-17 Edited by William Irwin and Richard Brian Davis, Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy (Wiley, 2010) is a collection of essays by various authors on the deeper aspects of Wonderland and its characters.  Titles include “Unruly Alice: A Feminist View of Some Adventures in Wonderland,” “Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast,” “Is There Such a Thing as Language?” “Serious Nonsense,” and “Memory and Muchness.” For teenagers and up.
 imgres-18 From Brainpickings, The Philosophy of Alice in Wonderland is a detailed review of the book, with short excerpts.
 imgres-19 Daniel Silberberg’s Wonderland: The Zen of Alice (Parallax Press, 2009) combines quotes and stories from Alice with personal anecdotes, Buddhist koans, and discourses on the nature of reality and the search for truth. A short (120 pages), interesting read for teenagers and up.

POETRY

 imgres-20 Lewis Carroll in the Poetry for Young People series (Sterling, 2008) is an illustrated collection of 26 of Carroll’s best-known poems, among them “How Doth the Little Crocodile,” “You Are Old, Father William,” and “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” For ages 8 and up.
Lewis Carroll: Poetry for Young People has discussion suggestions and activities to accompany the book.
 imgres-15 Poemhunter’s Lewis Carroll page has a selection of Carroll’s poems including, of course, “Jabberwocky.”
 images Listen to author Neil Gaiman recite Jabberwocky.

MATH (AND PUZZLES)

 imgres-21 One of Lewis Carroll’s puzzle masterpieces is a game/puzzle known as Doublets, in which players are challenged to change one word into another by changing just one letter at a time. It’s much tricker than it sounds. Check out the link for explanations and examples to try.
From Thinks.com, see another list of Doublets Word Puzzles.
 imgres-22 In Lewis Carroll’s famous Pillow Problem, a bag contains a counter, known to be either white or black. A white counter is put in, the bag is shaken, and a counter is pulled out, which proves to be white. What is now the chance of drawing a white counter? See Lewis Carroll’s Pillow Problem for a simulation.
 imgres-23 Edited by Edward Wakeling, Lewis Carroll’s Games and Puzzles (Dover Publications, 1992) is a collection of 42 brainteasers, among them Looking-Glass Time, Arithmetical Croquet, and Cakes in a Row. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-24 Martin Gardner’s The Universe in a Handkerchief (Copernicus, 1998) is a 150-page collection of Lewis Carroll’s “mathematical recreations, games, puzzles, and word plays.” For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-25 Robin Wilson’s Lewis Carroll in Numberland (W.W. Norton, 2010) is a very readable mathematical biography of Carroll – a.k.a. mathematician Charles Dodgson. Included are a chronology of Carroll’s life and explanations of many of the mathematical concepts and puzzles incorporated into his books. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-26 Algebra in Wonderland is a short article explaining the math behind some of the events in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice’s encounter with the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, for example, has a lot to do with algebra.

LESSON PLANS

 images-1 From Edsitement, A Trip to Wonderland is a lesson plan targeted at grades K-2 based on a young reader’s version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It centers around imaginative creatures and concepts of size.
 images-2 From Core Knowledge, Alice in Wonderland is a detailed third-grade level lesson plan to accompany the book. The 12-lesson sequence includes resource and vocabulary lists, activities, and discussion questions. The culminating activity is a mock trial (“Who DID steal the tarts?”).
 alice03a Targeted at grades 6-8, Edsitement’s Childhood Through the Looking-Glass is a lesson plan in which kids analyze Lewis Carroll’s vision of Victorian childhood and compare it to that of poet William Blake.

ARTS, CRAFTS, AND ACTIVITIES

 imgres-27 Alice in Wonderland: An Interactive Adventure has a long list of Alice-based games and activities. Kids can solve mazes, read poems (including “Jabberwocky” in Latin), play chess with the Red Queen, put Humpty Dumpty together again, get a recipe for tarts, and more.
 imgres-28 The inexpensive Alice in Wonderland Coloring Book (Dover Publications) includes 36 of the original John Tenniel illustrations (enlarged to coloring-book size) along with an abridged version of the text.
imgres-29 Alice in Wonderland House of Cards (U.S. Games Systems) is a set of oversized playing cards featuring John Tenniel’s illustrations, with cut slits so that they can be used for building card houses. (Remember to shout “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”)
 imgres-30 By Hannah Read-Baldry and Christine Leech, Everything Alice (North Light Books, 2011) is a collection of craft projects and recipes for Alice lovers. For example, kids and adults can make a stuffed white rabbit, a Cheshire cat mask, lavender dormice, and Duchess macaroons.
 imgres-31 By Dawn Hylton and Diane Sedo, Taking Tea With Alice (Benjamin Press, 2008) gives readers the scoop on Alice-style Victorian tea parties, complete with recipes, activities, table settings, decorations, and party games.

 ALICE AT THE MOVIES

 imgres-32 Buzzfeed’s illustrated list of Adapations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland begins with the first film version of the book, an eight-minute silent film short made in 1903.
 imgres-33 Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951) is the familiar animated musical. Rated G.
 imgres-34 Alice in Wonderland (1999) combines Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass in a single film, with a cast of characters that includes Whoopi Goldberg as the Cheshire Cat, Ben Kingsley as the Caterpillar, Miranda Richardson as Queen of Hearts, and Peter Ustinov as the Walrus. Rated PG.
 imgres-35 In Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland, a teenaged Alice falls down a rabbit hole and ends up in a surreal world where – with the help of friends – she has to battle the horrible Jabberwocky and help defeat the Red Queen and restore the White Queen to the throne. The impressive cast includes Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen. Rated PG.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Family Stories and Memoirs

 

November is National Family Stories Month – and with the weather getting cold, it’s a perfect time for curling up in front of the woodstove and telling stories. Though, of course, any time of year is good for family stories, and the more the better. See below for some of the many ways in which other people have told theirs.

What about playing family story-telling games, making your own family memory book, creating a family name quilt, or keeping a cartoon diary?

TRUE FAMILY STORIES

 imgres Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young in the Mountains (Puffin, 1993), a Caldecott Honor Book, is an evocative first-person account of a West Virginia childhood that begins “When I was young in the mountains, Grandfather came home in the evening covered with the black dust of a coal mine.” For ages 5-8.
 imgres-1 Dan Yaccarino’s All the Way to America (Dragonfly, 2014) – subtitled “The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel” – traces his family history from Sorrento, Italy, where his great-grandfather, Michele, was given a little shovel by his father so that he could help tend the family garden plot. When, as a young man, Michele leaves for America, he takes the little shovel with him, along with some family photographs and his mother’s recipe for tomato sauce. Eventually, the little shovel is passed down through generations. (The author picture on the back flap shows Yaccarino holding it.) For ages 5-9.
 imgres-2 Betsy Hearne’s picture book Seven Brave Women (Greenwillow Books, 2006) traces her family history through seven generations, beginning with great-great-great-grandmother Elizabeth, who came to America from Switzerland in a wooden boat, and great-great-grandmother Eliza, who traveled west to Ohio in a covered wagon. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-3 James Stevenson’s When I Was Nine (Greenwillow, 1986) is the picture-book story of a childhood summer in the 1930s when Stevenson was nine years old. For ages 5 and up.
 imgres-4 Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2006) is a wonderful account of Capote’s (as “Buddy”) childhood in rural Alabama in the 1930s and his friendship with his eccentric Aunt Sook. Aunt Sook is also featured in The Thanksgiving Visitor, in which she invites Buddy’s nemesis, the school bully Odd Henderson, to Thanksgiving dinner. For ages 6 and up.
 imgres-5 The nine-book Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, beginning with Little House in the Big Woods (HarperCollins, 2004), collectively tells the story of the life of Laura and her family as pioneers in the mid-19th century. Filled with details, adventures, and Pa’s fiddle music. For ages 7 and up.
 imgres-6 From the New Yorker, Judith Thurman’s Wilder Women is an interesting account of Laura Ingalls Wilder, her daughter Rose, and their now-classic books.
 imgres-7 Robert Lawson’s They Were Strong and Good (Viking Juvenile Books, 2006) traces his family’s journey through American history, beginning with his grandparents: “My mother’s father was a Scotch sea captain. He sailed the brig Eliza Jane Hopper from New York to the islands of the Caribbean – to Puerto Rico and Cuba and the Isthmus of Panama.” For ages 8-12.
 imgres-8 Jean Craighead George’s The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets (HarperCollins, 1997) is the story of George’s family life with orphaned wild animals, among them Yammer, an owl who liked to watch Road Runner cartoons, and Duck and Goose, who were arrested for disturbing the peace. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-9 Farley Mowat’s Owls in the Family (Yearling, 1996) is the story of his childhood on the Canadian prairie, along with his obstreperous and endearing pet owls, Wol and Weeps. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-10 Jean Fritz’s Homesick, My Own Story (Puffin, 1999) is the fascinating story of Fritz’s childhood in China in the 1920s. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-11 Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (HarperCollins, 2005) is both a wonderful collection of family stories and a great family read-aloud. Originally published in the 1940s, this is the story of the Gilbreth family as told by two of the kids. The Gilbreth parents were early efficiency experts, who combined research with a boisterous family of twelve redheads. (Learn about Dad’s disastrous birdbath, the perils of automobiles, home-style tonsillectomies, and how to take a bath in under a minute.) For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-12 When I Was Your Age, edited by Amy Ehrlich, (Candlewick Press, 2012) is a collection of childhood reminiscences by ten well-known children’s book authors, among them Mary Pope Osborne, Katherine Paterson, Avi, James Howe, and Susan Cooper. (If you and your kids like that, there’s a sequel: When I Was Your Age, Volume 2.) For ages 9-14.
 imgres-13 Roald Dahl’s Boy (Puffin, 2009), illustrated with photos and drawings by Quentin Blake, is Dahl’s account of his boyhood, including the wicked tale of the Great Mouse Plot of 1924. (It involves a dead mouse and candy.) For ages 9-14.
 imgres-14 Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story (Broadway, 2003) is the hilarious tale of Shepherd’s Indiana boyhood, featuring a secret decoder ring (that proves to advertise Ovaltine), a scandalous leg lamp (wearing a fishnet stocking), the tobacco-chewing Bumpuses next door with their swarm of hideous hounds, and young Ralphie’s hope for a Red Ryder B-B gun for Christmas. For ages 10 and up.
The 1983 film version of A Christmas Story – which is funny and terrific – is rated PG.
 imgres-15 Jerry Spinelli’s Knots in My Yo-Yo String (Ember, 1998) is the story of Spinelli’s youth in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s. For ages 10-13.
 imgres-17 Lois Lowry’s Looking Back: A Book of Memories (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2000) is a marvelous collection of autobiographical stories accompanied by black-and-white photos, each showing how Lowry used her personal life experiences in her many novels. (Each chapter opens with a novel excerpt.) For ages 11 and up.
 imgres-18 Art Spiegelman’s powerful graphic novels Maus (Pantheon, 1986) and Maus II tell the story of his parents’ experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland and post-war life in the United States. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-19 Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl (Bantam, 1993) is a world classic. The diary begins when Anne was 13, just before she and her family go into hiding in the “secret annex” in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. For ages 13 and up.
See the Anne Frank website for period photos of Anne’s Amsterdam, a tour of the secret annex, information on the diary, and more.
 imgres-16 Joyce Maynard’s Looking Back (Open Road, 2012), a memoir written when Maynard was 18, is “A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties.” For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-23 Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Ballantine, 2009) is the wonderful, painful, and uplifting story of the poet’s youth, her struggles to overcome bigotry and deal with physical and emotional hardship, and her ultimate discovery of her own strength and her love for the written word. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-21 Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (Mariner Books, 1972) is a superb collection of autobiographical pieces beginning after the author’s parents died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. For older teenagers and adults.
 imgres-22 Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory (Vintage, 1989) is a stunning autobiography, dealing primarily with Nabokov’s life in Russia before coming to the United States. For teenagers and adults.
Not fond of memoirs? See The Problem With Memoirs from the New York Times.

FICTIONAL FAMILY STORIES

 imgres-24 Jamie Lee Curtis’s When I Was Little (HarperCollins, 1995) is a four-year-old’s picture-book memoir of her youth. (“When I was little, I had two teeth. Now I have lots, and I know how to brush them.”) For ages 3-6.
 imgres-25 In Rose A. Lewis’s Every Year on Your Birthday (Little, Brown, 2007), a mother tells her adopted Chinese daughter the story of her life, year by year, beginning with her birth in China. (“I wasn’t there, but I was thinking about you as I waited at home to be your new mother.”) For ages 3-6.
 imgres-26 Patricia MacLachlan’s beautiful What You Know First (HarperCollins, 1998) is the poetic story of a little girl whose family has sold their farm on the prairie, a place the narrator loves and doesn’t want to leave. As she comes to terms with moving, she collects mementos – a bag of prairie earth, a piece of a cottonwood tree – so that she can tell her new brother or sister where they came from. “What you know first stays with you, my Papa says.” Illustrated with engravings. For ages 4 and up.
 imgres-27 In Patricia Polacco’s The Keeping Quilt (Simon & Schuster, 2001), Anna’s mother makes a quilt to help the family remember their home in Russia. Passed down from mother to daughter through generations, the quilt serves as a wedding canopy, a Sabbath tablecloth, and a blanket for a new baby – but all the while tying the family together. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-28 In Knots on a Counting Rope (Square Fish, 1997) by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault, a Navajo boy listens as his grandfather tells him his life story: about the stormy night when he was born, how he got his name, and how he has bravely learned to live with his blindness. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-29 In Mem Fox’s Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (Kane Miller, 1969), young Wilfrid lives next door to a retirement home, where his best friend – 96-year-old Miss Nancy – is losing her memory. Wilfrid sets out to help her get it back – but first he has to find out what memories are. Everyone has a different definition. For ages 4-8.
Listen to Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge read aloud here (by Bradley Whitford). Included at the site is a downloadable activity guide.
 imgres-30 In Eve Bunting’s The Memory String (Clarion, 2000), Laura – who is having trouble adjusting to Jane, her new stepmother – comforts herself by telling the stories associated with each of the buttons on her “memory string:” there’s a button from her great-grandmother’s first grown-up dress, one from her mother’s wedding gown, another from her father’s army uniform. When the string breaks, Jane helps Laura put it together again and the two form a bond. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-31 In Phyllis Root’s The Name Quilt (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), Sadie spends summers with her Grandma, who tucks her in every night with the name quilt. The quilt has the names of generations of ancestors embroidered on it, and there’s a story that goes with every one. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-32 Riki Levinson’s Watch the Stars Come Out (Puffin, 1995) is the story of two children’s journey across the ocean to America, their landing at Ellis Island, and their reunion with their parents – all told as a family tale, the story a grandmother tells her little granddaughter about her own mother’s experiences. Illustrated with lovely paintings. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-33 In Sharon Bell Mathis’s The Hundred Penny Box (Puffin, 2006), Michael’s great-great-aunt Dew cherishes a box of pennies, one for each of her one hundred years, each with a story of its own. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-34 Jeff Kinney’s cartoon Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Amulet, 2009) is the hilarious story of middle-school student Greg, forced by his mother to keep a diary. (No, journal.) Many sequels. For ages 8-13.
 imgres-35 In Richard Peck’s A Long Way From Chicago (Puffin, 2004), Joey and his sister Mary Alice have been sent from Chicago to stay with their intimidating Grandma Dowdel, a larger-than-life woman with a heart of pure gold. The episodes in the book begin in 1929, the first year of the Great Depression, and end in 1942, when Joey heads off to war. A wonderful fictional family story. Sequels are A Year Down Yonder, featuring Mary Alice, and A Season of Gifts. For ages 9 and up.

TELLING YOUR STORY

 imgres-36 Donald Davis’s Telling Your Own Stories (August House, 2005) – written by a master storyteller – is a 128-page collection of prompts, tips, and suggestions for storytellers to use either by themselves with a notebook and pencil or in conversational groups. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-37 Mary Borg’s Writing Your Life (Prufrock Press, 2013) is a guide to writing your autobiography, packed with questions to explore, story starters, and writing tips. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres The nonprofit oral history project StoryCorps, founded in 2003, has collected personal stories from over 90,000 participants. (Their motto: “Every voice matters.”)Visit the site to listen to stories or participate by recording personal stories of your own.
Collecting Family Stories has a long list of suggestions and sample interview questions. Interview your relatives!

MEMORY JOURNALS

 images Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me (Random House, 1969) is an interactive journal in which kids fill in information “all about me” – weight and height, number of teeth, hair and eye color, favorite foods and clothes, pets and family members, and more. A fun project for ages 4-8.
 imgres-38 From Creativity for Kids, the It’s My Life Scrapbook Kit includes a spiral-bound scrapbook, fancy paper, stickers, picture frames, and tools for story-recording kids ages 7 and up.
 imgres-39 Linda Kranz’s All About Me: A Keepsake Journal for Kids (Rising Moon, 2004) is an illustrated notebook with prompts that encourage kids to write about themselves: “Everybody has a favorite place. What is yours?” “If someone gave you a million dollars, what would you do with it?” For ages 9-12.
 imgres-40 Compiled by a writing teacher, Family Traditions Scrapbook has a list of suggestions and links for making a family history scrapbook.
 images-1 The Treasure Chest: Creating a Family Memory Book has instructions for making a memory book in a decorated three-ring binder. Included is a list of questions aimed at getting the whole family involved.
 imgres-41 From Scholastic, Brown Paper Bag Family Memories is a project for early-elementary-level kids in which they collect objects that represent a family memory in a brown paper lunch bag and write short stories about each.

FAMILY STORY GAMES

 imgres-42 LifeStories (Talicor) is a family-friendly personal storytelling game in which participants hop playing pieces around a bright-colored board while answering questions in four categories: Etchings, Memories, Valuables, and Alternatives. Samples include “Tell about an incident that had something to do with water,” “Tell about something that made you feel proud,” “What is one of the most unusual meals you ever ate?,” “How did your parents meet?,” and “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For 2-8 players ages 6 and up.
 imgres-43 In our family, a lot of personal storytelling began with a board game. The game was called Reminiscing (subtitled “The Game for People Over Thirty”) and I’d been given it for a birthday. A good deal of the game involved decade-by-decade trivia questions, which didn’t go down well with our kids, all of whom were well under thirty and couldn’t remember Woodstock, I Love Lucy, or Gilligan’s Island. However, a subset of the game involved a challenge to tell a story from your past having to do with…followed by a long list of memory-triggering suggestions: a pet, a storm, a party, a costume, a camping trip, a dream, a Christmas, a bicycle, a car, a book, a grandparent, a cousin. Finally, we gave up on the board game altogether, wrote the personal story suggestions on index cards, one to a card, and stashed them in a cardboard box known from then on as the Storytelling Box. We took turns picking cards and telling stories. It’s a pastime that never fails, and the stories – try it and you’ll see – are wonderful.
Posted in Literature, Writing | Leave a comment

Vikings

 

 

The Vikings: scary warriors, peaceful farmers, superb sailors, talented artists. See below for books, resources, a great outdoor chess game, a rampageous God of Thunder, and some helpful hints about dragon training.

 VIKING HISTORY

 imgres By Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, Leif the Lucky (Beautiful Feet Books, 1994) is a gorgeously illustrated biography of Leif Erickson for ages 7-10.
 imgres-1 Andrew Langley’s 40-page You Wouldn’t Want to Be A Viking Explorer! (Franklin Watts, 2013) uses off-beat humor and cartoon-ish illustrations to cover a lot of information on the Vikings and their colonization of Greenland. For ages 7-11.
 imgres-2 Susan Margeson’s Viking (Dorling Kindersley, 2009) in the Eyewitness series is arranged in illustrated double-page spreads, each devoted to a different Viking topic, among them “A Viking warship,” “A Viking fort,” “Gods and legends,” “Viking burials,” and “Runes and picture stones.” Wonderful photographs of artifacts. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-3 Elizabeth Janeway’s The Vikings (Beautiful Feet Books, 2010) is a lightly fictionalized account of the life and voyages of Leif Ericson. Historically accurate, but reads like an exciting novel. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-4 By John Haywood, Viking: The Norse Warrior’s (Unofficial) Manual (Thames & Hudson, 2013) is informational, funny, and written in the second person, which makes for a snappy read. A rundown of Viking society, for example, ends with the slave or thrall, the social bottom of the heap: “Tough luck. This is not a good place to start. You’ll be a slave if your mother was a slave. Or maybe you didn’t run fast enough when Vikings came calling in your neighborhood, and you were captured and sold.”  For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-5 James Graham-Campbell’s  200+-page The Viking World (Frances Lincoln, 2013) is a comprehensive account of the Vikings, who dominated (and terrorized) Europe from the ninth to the eleventh century. Illustrated with maps and beautiful photographs. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-6 Nancy Marie Brown’s The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman (Mariner Books, 2008) is the fascinating tale of the tenth-century Gudrid, who probably crossed the Atlantic Ocean eight times. The book combines new archaeological discoveries (Gudrid’s longhouse has been excavated in Iceland) with historical information and accounts from medieval Icelandic sagas. For teenagers and adults.
 images By Bryan Sykes, Saxons, Vikings, and Celts (W.W. Norton and Company, 2007) is a genetic history of the Great Britain, covering everything from Cheddar Man and King Arthur to the science of blood transfusions. Find out who has Viking ancestors. For teenagers and adults.
 images-1 The History Channel’s The Vikings is a multi-season series with a lot of action, a large cast of characters, and an up-close-and-personal look at the Vikings.
 imgres-8 Robert Ferguson’s The Vikings (Penguin Books, 2010), the companion book to the series, is a well-researched history, filled with interesting (and many gruesome) details. For teenagers and adults.
 images-4 The Viking Answer Lady website has a wealth of helpful information, variously categorized under General Info, Daily Life, Technology, Agriculture, Warfare, Art & Literature, Myth & Religion, and Settlements. Find out about old Norse names, Viking games, drinking customs, tattoos, berserkers, and much more.
kremlin-22 Viking Heritage has a long list of Viking archaeological discoveries, with annotated photos of artifacts.
 images-3 The Viking Rune is a blog devoted to Vikings. Various categories include Norse Names, Norse Runes, Viking Archaeology, Viking Gods, and Scandinavia.
 images-5 The Jorvik Viking Centre in York, England – on the site of an ancient Viking city – is now a wonderful living-history museum. A dream field trip for Viking lovers. Check it out.
 images-6 10 Things You May Not Know About the Vikings is an interesting short list. Visitors learn that Vikings bleached their hair, skied for fun, and never wore horned helmets.
 imgres-9 From The Great Courses, The Vikings is a 36-lecture series, available for download or on DVDs or CDs. Titles of the 30-minute lectures, by professor Kenneth Harl of Tulane University, include “The Vikings in Medieval History,” “The Norse Gods,” “Legendary Kings and Heroes,” and “A Revolution in Shipbuilding.” Intended for a high-school-level or adult audience, but accessible for younger viewers.
 imgres-10 Generally the Viking age in Europe is said to have begun with the raid on Lindisfarne Abbey on June 8, AD 793 – but recent evidence shows that the first raid may have been earlier yet. Read about it in The First Vikings from Archaeology magazine.
 imgres-11 From PBS, The Viking Deception is the story of the Vinland map – either a priceless document showing early Viking voyages or a very clever 20th-century forgery.
 images-7 See this illustrated account of How Vikings Navigated the World.
 imgres-12 Legend claims that the Vikings used special crystal to navigate under cloudy skies. Read about the discovery of a Viking-style sunstone here.

VIKINGS IN FICTION

 imgres-13 In #15 in Mary Pope Osborne’s popular Magic Treehouse series, Viking Ships at Sunrise (Random House, 2010), Jack and Annie are magically transported to a monastery in Ireland, just as Viking raiders arrive. For ages 6-9.
From Scholastic, Viking Ships at Sunrise Lesson Plan has a number of activities to accompany the book, among them making and labeling a “Viking ship” on the floor (with electrical tape), learning to write your name in runes, researching Viking facts, and figuring out how long it takes to copy a page from a favorite book, medieval-monk-style.
 imgres-14 In Jon Scieszka’s Viking It and Liking It (Puffin, 2004), one of the giggle-provoking Time Warp Trio series, Joe, Fred, and Sam are propelled back to the time of the Vikings, where they become embroiled in a conflict between Leif Eriksson and his cousin, Grim-Snake-in-the-Grass. There’s an annoying bard suggestively named Bullshik, which – according to reviewer comments – many parents and teachers find objectionable. For ages 7-9.
Viking It and Liking It is a lesson plan to accompany the book. Activities include making a commercial for some aspect of Viking life and inventing a game of Viking Jeopardy.
 imgres-15 Clyde Robert Bulla’s Viking Adventure (Avyx, 2000) is the story of young Sigurd, who sets off on a voyage to “Wineland” in North America. The voyage turns out to be far more dangerous than expected – there’s a murder and a shipwreck – with only Sigurd left alive at the end to tell the tale. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-16 In Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon (Little, Brown, 2010), Hiccup, a Viking warrior-in-training, and his fellow classmates must each capture a dragon and train it. Hiccup’s dragon – rude, lazy, and scrawny, but lovable – is named Toothless. When traditional Viking dragon-training techniques (yelling) fail, Hiccup decides to simply talk to Toothless – with successful results, as the pair of unlikely heroes prove when the clan is faced with a sea monster. The first of a series for ages 7-11.
images-8 From DreamWorks, How to Train Your Dragon is the animated film version of the book. Rated PG.
 imgres-17 In Terry Jones’s The Saga of Erik the Viking (Pavilion, 2013), Erik and his crew set sail on The Golden Dragon to find “the land where the sun goes at night.” En route, they have exciting and heroic adventures with the Old Man of the Sea, monsters, enchanters, giants, trolls, and a dragon. A great read for ages 8-12.
 imgres-18 In Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants (HarperCollins, 2009), twelve-year-old Odd, who has a crippled leg and a hateful stepfather, sets off for a cabin in the wilderness. Along the way he meets a bear, a fox, and an eagle – who prove to be gods in disguise, transformed into animals by a Frost Giant. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-19 In Matthew Kirby’s Icefall (Scholastic, 2013), set in ancient Norway, a Viking king has sent his three children – Harald, his young son and heir, Asa, the beautiful oldest daughter, and Solveig, the plain middle child – to a distant mountain fortress for protection while the kingdom is at war. It soon becomes obvious that there is a traitor in their midst, and Solveig, now training to become a bard, must discover who it is. A terrific and suspenseful story for ages 8-12.
 imgres-20 Allison Lassieur’s Life as a Viking (Capstone Press, 2010) is an interactive choose-your-own-adventure in which readers decide what to raid, battle, or invade. Historical information paired with a lot of slaughter. Be warned. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-21 In Nancy Farmer’s The Sea of Trolls (Atheneum Books, 2006), a Viking-based fantasy, young Jack (who has been learning magic from the neighborhood Bard) and his little sister Lucy are captured by Northmen and taken to the home of Olaf One-Brow. Jack – soon in trouble with the half-troll Queen Frith – must save his sister by setting off on a quest to find Mimir’s well in Jotunheim, a fearful realm of trolls, dragons, and monsters. There are two sequels: The Land of the Silver Apples and The Islands of the Blessed. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-23 Jonathan Stroud’s Heroes of the Valley (Disney-Hyperion, 2010) is a fantasy set in the world of the Norse epics. The main character is fifteen-year-old Halli Sveinsson, youngest and least handsome son of the House of Svein, who sets off to avenge his uncle’s death and learns the truth about his heroic ancestors and their battle with the evil Trows. A grand adventure for ages 10 and up.
 images-9 Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael series is a delightful collection of mysteries set in the 12th century, starring the herbalist/monk Brother Cadfael, an ex-Crusader with a sense of humor. In Summer of the Danes (Sphere, 1994), Cadfael is dispatched to Wales, where civil war threatens. There he is captured by Viking mercenaries. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-24 Frans G. Bengtsson’s The Long Ships (New York Review Books Classics, 2010) is the story of 10th-century Viking Red Orm, an exciting saga of kings, clans, battles, and blood feuds. Wonderful historical fiction for teenagers and adults.
 images-10 The Historical Novels website has an annotated list of dozens of historical novels featuring Vikings. For older readers.
 imgres-25 In the film The Vikings (1958), Einar (Kirk Douglas) and Eric (Tony Curtis) are half-brothers, though neither realizes the other’s identity. (Not surprising, since Einar is a chieftain’s son and a warrior, while Eric is a slave.) This is a gorgeous movie: there are battles, longships, a beautiful captured princess (Janet Leigh), a wolf pit, and a flaming funeral. No rating on the website, but I’d call it a PG-13. It’s riddled with historical inaccuracies, but is such fun to watch that nobody cares.

NORSE MYTHOLOGY

 imgres-26 By Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, D’Aulaire’s Norse Myths (New York Review Children’s Collection, 2005) is a wonderful collection of classic stories about both the great and the lesser-known Norse gods, goddesses, and hangers-on. The illustrations are spectacular. For ages 5-12.
 imgres-27 By archaeologist Graeme Davis, Thor: The Viking God of Thunder (Osprey Publishing, 2013) is an excellent collection of Norse myths and legends about the Viking god who battles trolls and giants with Mjolnir, his mighty hammer, and who rides to war in a chariot pulled by goats. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-29 Padraic Colum’s The Children of Odin (Aladdin, 2004) divides the classical Norse myths into four parts: “The Dwellers in Asgard,” “Odin the Wanderer,” “The Witch’s Heart,” and “The Sword of the Volsungs and the Twilight of the Gods.” For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-30 Nancy Marie Brown’s Song of the Vikings (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) is the story of chieftain and storyteller Snorri Sturluson, the source of Viking lore and legends for all of Western literature. Richard Wagner and J.R.R. Tolkien owe him. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-28 Renowned artist Walter Simonson’s graphic novel The Mighty Thor (Marvel, 2013), starring the superhero that he made famous, combines a great story with terrific pictures. Many equally wonderful sequels. For ages 9 and up.
 images-11 In the film Thor: The God of Thunder (2011), Thor – after some unauthorized meddling with the Frost Giants – is punished by being tossed out of Asgard and sent to Earth. There he falls in love with scientist Jane Foster and saves his new home from the Destroyer, sent by Loki to kill Thor. He also saves Asgard from invading Frost Giants. (Walter Simonson has a short, but impressive, appearance in the final banquet scene). Rated PG-13.
Also see the sequel, Thor: The Dark World (2013).
For the picky, check out 8 Things Marvel Got Wrong About Thor and Norse Mythology.
 images-12 Norse Mythology covers Viking myths, the Viking creation story, Yggdrasil the World Tree, Ragnarok, and the Norse gods, goddesses, and other supernatural beings.

VIKINGS AND MATH

 imgres-31 In Cindy Neuschwander’s Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map (Charlesbridge, 2012), cousins Per and Radius find a mysterious treasure map belonging to Viking warrior Xaxon Yellowbearyd. To decode it, they need to understand coordinate graphing. One of the Math Adventures series starring a host of math-y medieval characters for ages 8-12.
 images-13 Viking Math is a short collection of Viking-themed word problems, variously involving scaling monastery walls, burning English huts, indulging in blood feuds, and fleeing, at different speeds, in longships.
 imgres-32 Viking Navigation is an exercise in which students determine latitude using the same method as the Vikings. You’ll need two yardsticks, a protractor, and an ability to find the North Star.
 imgres-33 An Investigation into Viking Mathematics is an essay on the mathematical peculiarities of Viking chain mail.
 imgres-34 Vikings Brainstorm is a puzzle board game in which players attempt to navigate their longships through a storm at sea. An exercise in strategy and creative thinking for ages 6 and up.

ARTS, CRAFTS, AND GAMES

 929 From Crayola, Westward With the Vikings has instructions for making a paper-and-craft-stick Viking dragon boat.
 vicking-shipsm Make this great 3-D Viking Ship from a cardboard milk carton.
 mpaperviking DLTK’s Crafts for Kids has a Viking Paper Craft: print and color the templates to assemble a Viking paper doll. Wearing a horned helmet.
 IMG_4979 See these instructions for making a terrific Viking Shield. (You’ll need duct tape and a big piece of corrugated cardboard.)
 imgres-37 A.G. Smith’s Story of the Vikings (Dover Publications, 1988) is an informational coloring book covering all aspects of Viking life. Pair this one with a nice box of colored pencils. For ages 8-12.
 roundbrooches From Time Traveller Kids, Make a Viking Brooch has instructions for making great cloak pins from painted clay.
From the Instructables, Making a Viking Cloak-Pin is a serious project involving metal and a brazing rod.
 imgres-35 The Scandinavian game of Kubb is also known as “Viking chess.” The goal: to throw sticks at your opponent’s pieces in an attempt to knock them over. Find out how to make a set of your own here.
Commercial version of Kubb/Viking chess – played outdoors on the lawn – are available here.
 imgres-36 The Lewis chessmen are thought to have been made in Scandinavia in the 12th century.
Medieval Foes With Whimsy is an article from the New York Times about the Lewis chessmen.
Also see The Isle of Lewis Chess Set on You Tube, which has great views of the pieces.
 imgres At Write Your Name in Runes, you can do just that, plus learn the runic alphabet.
From Omniglot, Runic Alphabet has information, history, and several versions of the runic alphabet (known as futhark from its first six letters).

LESSON PLANS, ETC.

 images-13 Aimed at primary-school kids, the BBC’s Vikings has questions and answers, activities, fun facts, and photo and video galleries.
 images-5 From the Core Knowledge website, The Vikings: Marauders or Explorers? is a detailed seven-part lesson plan targeted at third-graders but adaptable for a range of ages. Included are activities, lists of key terms and vocabulary words, learning goals, and resource lists.
 images-15 From Learning Through History, the Vikings Mini Unit Study has background information, a primary-source account of a Viking raid, a virtual tour of a Viking farmhouse, instructions for writing your name in runes and making a Viking costume, a Viking Quest game, and more.
diasporamap The companion website to NOVA’s The Vikings has a virtual tour of a medieval Viking village, interesting information on Viking history, a clickable map showing the extent of Viking travels, and a project in which kids make a tree-ring timeline.

MUSIC AND POETRY

 imgres-38 Music of the Viking Age is a short illustrated history.
 full_vocal_01 From the BBC’s Learning School Radio, Viking Saga Songs is an animated collection of stories and songs based on Norse mythology. Sing along with “Loki the Joker.”
 cd_wardruna Viking Music selections were inspired by the Vikings and are based on traditional Scandinavian folk tunes. Listen to examples at the website.
 imgres-39 Recreating the Jorvik Panpipes describes how a Viking instrument found at the Jorvik site was resurrected.
 imgres-40 From Odin’s Gift, Historical & Classical Poetry has examples of ancient Viking poems and sagas.
 imgres-41 From Rudyard Kipling’s wonderful Puck of Pook’s Hill, the Harp Song of the Dane Women is a poem about the Vikings.
 images-16 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Musician’s Tale is from his longer work, The Saga of King Olaf. (A favorite of Theodore Roosevelt.)
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Manners, Please

 

Manners count. They really do. Check out these resources (for perfectly polite kids).

 

 imgres Elizabeth Verdick’s Best Behavior series (Free Spirit Publishing) gets right to the point with such titles as Teeth Are Not for Biting, Hands Are Not for Hitting, and Words Are Not for Hurting. For ages 2-3.
 imgres-1 Richard Morgan’s Oops, Sorry (Barron’s Educational Series, 2005) is written in the form of a helpful quiz. “If someone gives you something nice, what do you say?” Turn the page to find out. (“Thank you!”) For ages 2-5.
 imgres-14 In Jane Yolen’s clever rhyming How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? (Blue Sky Press, 2000), dinosaurs model proper going-to-bed behavior. “Does a dinosaur slam his tail and pout?/Does he throw his teddy bear all about?” (No. No, he/she doesn’t.) For ages 2-7.
There are many well-behaved dinosaur sequels, among them How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends?, How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?, and How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room?
 imgres-3 In Mo Willems’s Time to Say “Please” (Disney-Hyperion, 2005), a gang of mice – armed with colorful word bubbles – deal with the basics of please, thank you, excuse me, and I’m sorry. For ages 3-6.
 imgres-4 In Jennifer Morris’s May I Please Have a Cookie? (Cartwheel Books, 2005), Alfie, a little alligator, tries everything he can think of to get a cookie – grabbing, disguises, tears – before finally realizing that he only needs to say “please.” For ages 3-6.
 imgres-5 In Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book (Random House, 1973), short stories starring the familiar Scarry characters – cats, pigs, and hippos (and Lowly Worm) – demonstrate good and bad behavior. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-6 Ellen Javernick’s picture book What If Everybody Did That? (Two Lions, 2010) shows the consequences of breaking rules as a boy feeds the bears at the zoo, races with a supermarket cart, interrupts at storytime, and tosses a soda can out the car window – each time to be confronted with a cross adult saying “What if everybody did that?” On the next page, there’s a picture of the awful consequences. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-7 In Stan and Jan Berenstain’s The Berenstain Bears Forget their Manners (Random House, 1985), rudeness has gotten out of hand as Brother and Sister Bear push, shove, grab for food, call names, and kick each other under the table. Mama Bear comes up with a helpful Politeness Plan. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-8 Aliki’s charmingly illustrated Manners (Greenwillow Books, 2007) explains good and bad manners through clever panel cartoons and speech bubbles, with some side comments from a trio of little birds. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-9 By Carol Wallace, Elbows off the Table, Napkin in the Lap, No Video Games During Dinner (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996) is touted as a modern guide to teaching kids manners. Many suggestions for parents of kids ages 3-12.
 imgres-10 By Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post, Emily’s Everyday Manners (HarperCollins, 2006) features best friends Emily and Ethan who ride the bus, go to the playground, visit friends, and go out to dinner, all with exemplary manners. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-11 Sesyle Joslin’s wonderful What do You Say, Dear? (HarperCollins, 1986) – with illustrations by Maurice Sendak – is filled with hypothetical situations, to each of which is appended the question “What do you say, dear?” (“You are downtown and there is a gentleman giving baby elephants to people. You want to take one home because you have always wanted a baby elephant, but first the gentleman introduces you to each other.” …:”What do you say, dear?”) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-12 David Shannon’s No, David! (Blue Sky Press, 1998) is an object lesson in what not to do, as irrepressible David goes from bad to worse.  For ages 4-8.
 images Karla Kuskin’s wonderful etiquette poem Rules appears in The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House, 1983). (“Do not jump on ancient uncles/Do not yell at average mice/Do not wear a broom to breakfast/Do not ask a snake’s advice.”)
 images-1 Munro Leaf’s Manners Can Be Fun (Universe, 2004) – illustrated with goofy little stick figures – begins “Having good manners is really just living with other people pleasantly. If you lived all by yourself out on a desert island, others would not care whether you had good manners or not.” But, since most of us don’t live on desert islands, the author – with the help of some bad behavers –  covers polite ways of meeting people, table and conversation etiquette, treating people and objects with respect (don’t act like Smash, Rip, or Ruin), and taking responsibility for yourself. For ages 4-8.
In the same format, also by Leaf, see How to Behave and Why and How to Speak Politely and Why.
 imgres-13 By Audrey Wood, Elbert’s Bad Word (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996) is the witty and hilarious story of Elbert who, whacked with a croquet ball on his great toe at a garden party, lets loose (to the horror of all) a very bad word. The word – a little rat-like creature – persists in following Elbert around until finally the wizard-like estate gardener comes up with a magic spell that replaces Elbert’s bad word with a lot of sparkling creative alternatives. (RATS AND BLUE BLAZES!) I love Elbert. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-15 In Diane Cuneo’s Mary Louise Loses Her Manners (Yearling, 2000), poor Mary Louise has simply lost her manners, with awful consequences. So off she goes to try to get them back. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-16 Beth Brainard’s Soup Should be Seen, Not Heard (Good Idea Kids, 2012) – with cartoon illustrations and cute chapter titles (“Dear Grammy,” “You Can’t Wear Your Sweats to Sunday School”) – covers greetings, telephone etiquette, table manners, messages, personal grooming, and party manners. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-17 In Laurie Keller’s Do Unto Otters (Square Fish, 2009), Mr. Rabbit’s new neighbors are otters – OTTERS? – and he has no idea how to treat them.  What if they don’t get along? Helpful Owl suggests he follow the Golden Rule: treat the otters like you’d like them to treat you. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-18 Sandra Dutton’s Dear Miss Perfect: A Beast’s Guide to Proper Behavior (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007) is a tongue-in-cheek guide to manners through the problems of young animals, all described in letters. “Dear Miss Perfect,” fourth-grader Emily Possum writes. “My problem is that I like to hang upside down. Mama lets me do it at home. That’s how I’m most comfortable and the way I learn.” But Emily teacher says NO. How to cope? For ages 6-9.
 imgres-19 By Emilie Barnes, A Little Book of Manners: Courtesy & Kindness for Young Ladies (Harvest House Publishing, 1998) – through the eyes of young Emilie Marie – covers such topics as thank-you notes, dinner-table etiquette, party and telephone manners, and more. For ages 6-10.
Pair this one with a tea party. For books, resources, activities, and how-tos, see TEA FOR TWO (Or Many More).
imgres-20 By Bob and Emilie Barnes, also see A Little Book of Manners for Boys (Harvest House Publishers, 2000).
 imgres-21 Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Puffin, 2007) is – I would argue – a book about the triumph of manners, as kind and honest Charlie Bucket is put up against such obnoxious contestants as greedy Augustus Gloop, spoiled Veruca Salt, and aggressive Mike Teavee. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-22 By Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post, Emily Post’s Guide to Good Manners for Kids (HarperCollins, 2004) is what Emily Post would have said if Emily Post were still around. The book is divided into seven sections, covering Everyday Life, At Home, At School, At Play, Out and About, On the Go – Away From Home, and Special Occasions. For ages 8-13.
 imgres-23 Elizabeth Verdick’s 128-page humorous Don’t Behave Like You Live in a Cave (Free Spirit Publishing, 2010) – in which cartoon-style Cave Boy and Cave Girl display thoroughly bad manners throughout the book – makes a good case for the advantages of good behavior. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-24 By Pamela Espeland and Elizabeth Verdick, Dude, That’s Rude (Free Spirit Publishing, 2007) – illustrated with Simpson-like cartoon characters – is a catchy guide to etiquette using lots of real-world scenarios and a sense of humor. For ages 9-13.
 imgres-25 Sheryl Eberly’s 365 Manners Kids Should Know (Harmony, 2011) has an etiquette instruction for every day of the year, covering everything from proper jewelry and when to wear a hat to texting, television, thank-you letters, and swimming pool behavior. Included are “games and activities” to help kids learn etiquette. The author suggests a lot of parental quizzing.
 imgres-27 Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002) – in this edition, with great illustrations by Edward Gorey – was originally published in 1907. It’s a spoof on 19th century moral tales and consists of ten tales (in verse) about the awful consequences of bad behavior. Titles include “Jim, Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion” and “Rebecca Who Slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably.” The eleventh tale and final tale is “Charles Augustus Fortescue, Who Always Did what was Right, and so Accumulated an Immense Fortune.” For ages 12 and up and all with a wicked sense of humor.
 imgres-26 By Gelett Burgess – author of the immortal poem “I Never Saw a Purple Cow” – Goops and How to Be Them (Applewood Books, 2005), originally published in 1928, is an upside-down guide to manners by way of the perfectly awful Goops. (Don’t be one!) A fun read for all ages.
 imgres-28 Alex J. Packer’s How Rude! (Free Spirit Publishing, 2014) is a tome – over 500 pages long – but packed with helpful and polite advice on everything from texting and tweeting to bullying, breakups, and jerks. Includes lots of “Dear Alex” etiquette questions. For ages 13 and up.
 images-2 John Bridges’s elegant How To Be a Gentleman (Thomas Nelson, 2012) – which opens with the “10 Eternal Truths of the Gentlemanly Life” – has ten helpful chapters, variously titled “A Gentleman Gets Dressed,” “A Gentleman Goes to Dinner,” and “A Gentleman Goes to a Party.” For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-29 For those of the opposite sex, check out Candace Simpson-Giles’s How to Be a Lady (Thomas Nelson, 2012).  (“A lady does not use her camera phone in ways that intrude upon the privacy of others.”) For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-30 Judith Martin’s Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children (Touchstone, 2002) is perfectly delightful (as are all the Miss Manners etiquette books). Sections have introductions with basic information, followed by many begging-for-advice letters, each with a terrific response from Miss Manners. An addictive read for adults.
 imgres-31 Check out George Washington’s Rules of Civility.  (“In the Presence of Others, Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.”)
 imgres-32 Lord Chesterfield’s Letters (Oxford University Press, 2008) to his son, Philip, are a fascinating window on life, society, politics, and etiquette for the 18th-century young man. For older teenagers and adults.
 imgres-33 Caroline Taggart’s How to Greet the Queen (National Trust, 2014) is a catchy compendium of manners for interacting with royalty. For older teenagers, adults, and royal groupies.
 images-3 Teach Your Kids Table Manners is a helpful list of what to teach when.
 imgres-34 Need help with setting the table? The Tot Talk Table Setting & Etiquette Placemat shows just where to put silverware, plates, glasses, and napkin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Astronomy

 

There are – if not quite billions and billions – at least a LOT of resources for astronomy-lovers.

Also see posts on MARS and ALL ABOUT THE MOON.

 

ALL ABOUT ASTRONOMY

 imgres Lynn Wilson’s What’s Out There? (Grosset & Dunlap, 1993) is a simply presented introduction to stars and planets, illustrated with terrific paper-collage pictures. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-1 In Joan Sweeney’s Me and My Place in Space (Dragonfly Books, 1999), the young narrator takes off on a tour of the solar system, making crayon illustrations as she goes. (Pair with crayons!) For ages 3-7.
 imgres-2 By Catherine Hughes, National Geographic Kids First Big Book of Space (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2012) is a beautifully illustrated introduction, filled with basic information and catchy facts. (“If you could drive a car to the sun, it would take you 170 years.”) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-3 Karen Fox’s Older Than the Stars (Charlesbridge, 2011) – in catchy verse – explains how everything that makes up every one of us (and everything else) originated billions of years ago in the Big Bang. Included is a colorful timeline of the universe. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-4 Also see Michael Rubino’s Bang! How We Came to Be (Prometheus Books, 2011) for ages 8-11.
 images The Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series many astronomy-themed picture books for early-elementary-level kids. Titles include Mission to Mars, The International Space Station, What the Moon is Like, and The Planets in Our Solar System. For the complete list, see Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science.
 imgres-5 Joanne C. Letwinch’s Soaring Through the Universe: Astronomy Through Children’s Literature (Libraries Unlimited, 1999) has activities, projects, literature connections, and reproducible worksheets, variously categorized under Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, and Space Travel. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-6 Philip Harrington’s Astronomy for All Ages (Globe Pequot Press, 2000) is subtitled “Discovering the Universe Through Activities for Children and Adults.” Over fifty activities for all ages, variously covering the moon, planets, stars, constellations, and galaxies. Included are charts of lunar eclipses and meteor showers.
 imgres-7 Robin Kerrod’s Universe (Dorling Kindersley, 2009) in the popular Eyewitness series devotes a gorgeously illustrated double-page spread to each topic, among them “How the universe works,” “Comparing the planets,” “Clusters and nebulae,” “Pulsars and black holes,” and “Quasars and other active galaxies.” For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-8 I love Basher Science! Simon Basher and Dan Green’s 120+-page Astronomy: Out of This World! (Kingfisher, 2009) is clever, funny, and packed with information, much of it delivered in the anthropomorphic first person. The Sun: “I’m a total star – the center of everything, baby! A fearsome fireball burning 600 million tons of hydrogen every second, I provide light and heat for the orbiting scraps of matter called planets.” Terrific for ages 10 and up.
 imgres-9 In Neil de Grasse Tyson’s Merlin’s Tour of the Universe (Main Street Books, 1997), Tyson – in the person of Merlin, an omniscient visitor from the Andromeda Galaxy, answers astronomy questions from kids and adults on topics “from Mars and Quasars to comets, Planets, Blue Moons, and Werewolves.” A great read for ages 10 and up.
 imgres-10 Also see Tyson’s Just Visiting This Planet (Main Street Books, 1998) in which Merlin returns to answer a second round of questions.
 imgres-11 By Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, A Black Hole is Not a Hole (Charlesbridge, 2012) is a reader-friendly account of gravity, quasars, black holes, and the event horizon, written with both expertise and a sense of humor. (“A black hole is nothing to look at. Literally.”) For ages 11 and up.
 imgres-12 Chet Raymo’s 365 Starry Nights (Simon & Schuster, 1990) has star maps, well-presented scientific information and an astronomical adventure for every night of the year. A great family resource.
Also see the (unrelated) 365 Days of Astronomy which has an informational astronomical podcast for every day of the year.
 imgres-13 Bob Berman’s Secrets of the Night Sky (Harper Paperbacks, 1996): subtitled “The Most Amazing Things in the Universe You Can See with the Naked Eye,” is a fascinating collection of essays on everything from the Big Dipper to the aurora borealis. Though intended for adults, these make for great astronomical family read-alouds. Also included are helpful appendices on selecting binoculars and buying a telescope.
 imgres-14 NASA’s Starchild is a “Learning Center for Young Astronomers.” Visitors learn about the solar system, universe, and outer space with a wide range of activities. For elementary- and middle-school-level kids.
 imgres-15 NASA’s Space Place is a great resource, with many interactive projects, activities, and explorations for kids of all ages, categorized under Space, Sun, Earth, Solar System, and Peiople & Technology.
 imgres-16 NASA’s Imagine the Universe has information, multimedia exhibits, interactive projects and activities (some using real satellite data), and more. Designed for ages 14 and up.
 imgres-18 Astronomy Basics for Children is a nicely organized hyperlinked list, covering What Astronomers Do, How Did the Universe Begin, Home Sweet Home, The Light We Live By, Eight or Nine Planets, and How Far Does the Apple Fall from the Tree? Included are astronomy calculators, a mnemonic for remembering the plants in order, a tutorial on the Milky Way, and more.
 imgres-18 At Kids Astronomy, kids can explore the solar system, deep space, and space travel via creative animations. Also included are an astronomy dictionary, current observation info about tonight’s sky, and free online astronomy classes for either ages 7-11 or 12-18.
 imgres-20 From NASA and Montana State University’s Ceres Project, Educational Activities has a list of very well-organized lesson plans for a range of ages. Sample titles: Sky Paths: Studying the Movement of Celestial Objects, Learning Planet sizes, MarsQuest, and The Expanding Universe.
 imgres-17 Dark Skies, Bright Kids has a instructions for some great astronomy activities: for example, kids made model comets, explore invisible light, make pocket solar systems, and launch bottle rockets.
 imgres-21 See Space Science Teaching for a lesson plan on navigating by the North Star, constellation teaching resources, a map of the northern circumpolar constellations, and more. (Learn how to make a sextant!)
 images-1 From Core Knowledge, Astronomy is an excellent nine-part lesson plan targeted at third-graders. Various sections – all with instructions and materials and resource lists – cover Origins of the Universe; Galaxies; the Solar System; Planetary Motion; Gravity; Asteroids, Meteors, and Comets; Eclipses; Stars, Constellations, and Orienteering; and Exploration of Space.
 imgres-22 At Ology, the American Museum of Natural History’s website for kids, learn all about astronomy, take a virtual tour of the solar system, find out if you’re a likely candidate for a colony on Mars, build the Big Dipper, and more.
 imgres-23 Stardate is the public education and outreach branch of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. Visit the website for episodes of the informational Stardate radio program, a moon phase calendar, an illustrated “Astro Guide” to the universe, and a downloadable teacher’s lesson plan guide.
 imgres-24 At the University of Illinois Department of Astronomy, click on Resources for a helpful list of demos and animations (topics, for example, include lunar phases, Kepler’s laws, and the Doppler effect), portraits of stars, a complete list of constellations, an astronomy picture of the day, and – for chemists – an “astromolecule” of the month.
 imgres-26 For interested amateur astronomers, Astronomy magazine is filled with news and information about astronomy and sky-viewing. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-25 Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a 13-part 2014 science documentary hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an update of Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, aired on PBS in 1980. A great way to get an astronomy education.
 imgres-27 At the Hubble Site, learn all about the Hubble telescope and its discoveries., and get the scoop on the Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble’s successor. Included at the site are videos, podcasts, a photo gallery, and more.

STARS AND STARGAZING

 imgres-28 Anne Rockwell’s Our Stars (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002) has bright pictures and a short simple text for ages 3-6.
 imgres-29 In the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, Franklyn Branley’s The Sky Is Full of Stars (HarperCollins, 1983) is a simple introduction to stars and stargazing for ages 4-8.
 images-2 C.E. Thompson’s Glow-in-the-Dark Constellations (Grosset & Dunlap, 1999) is a straightforward introduction to ten major constellations, each given a double-page spread. (And they glow in the dark.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-30 By Gail Gibbons, The Stargazers (Holiday House, 1999), illustrated with bright attractive drawings, covers stargazers, ancient and modern, stars and constellations, and the operation of telescopes and planetariums. A straightforward introduction for ages 5-8.
 imgres-31 Seymour Simon’s Stars HarperCollins, 2006) and Galaxies (HarperCollins, 1991) are excellent introductions, illustrated with spectacular full-page color photographs. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-32 Looking up, of course, is easy; the trick is to know just what you’re looking up at. A wonderful help here is H.A. Rey’s 72-page Find the Constellations (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2008) – an excellent (and classic) beginner’s guide to the stars for ages 5-11.
 imgres-33 For older kids, check out Rey’s The Stars: A New Way to See Them (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2008), 160 pages of beautifully presented information, diagrams, drawings, and star maps. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-34 A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky by Michael Driscoll (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2004), illustrated with photos, diagrams, and colorful cartoon drawings, is divided into two main sections: “What’s Up There?” (including “What We Can See” and “What We Can’t See”) and “Exploring What’s Up There,” which provides guidelines for sky viewing through the four seasons of the year. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-35 Joan Marie Galat’s Dot to Dot in the Sky:Stories in the Stars (Whitecap Books, 2010) has scientific facts and a mythological story for each of fifteen prominent constellations. A star chart and “dot-to-dot” patterns help beginners locate them in the sky, For ages 8-12.
  Also by Galat in the same Dot to Dot in the Sky series are Stories of the Planets, Stories of the Zodiac, and Stories of the Moon.
 imgres-36 Terence Dickinson’s Exploring the Night Sky (Firefly Books, 1987) is an excellent star-spotting resource, featuring a “Cosmic Voyage” in “40 jumps” from the neighborly Moon to distant galaxies; an overview of the solar system and deep space; and a stargazing guide. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-37 Fran Lee’s Wishing on a Star: Constellation Stories and Stargazing Activities for Kids (Gibbs Smith, 2001) shows kids how to make a “twinkling thaumatrope” (a Victorian spinning toy), a star-patterned kite, and a star mobile, and includes script and instructions for performing a constellation myth play.
 imgres-38 The barebones stargazer doesn’t need more than a star map, a red-cellophane-covered flashlight for peeking at it (red light won’t interfere with your night vision), and a comfy blanket. A wonderful extra, however, is a green laser pointer. These are much brighter than the red versions, and the green beam dot shows up in midair, which means that it can be used for pointing at stars and constellations  (“skypointing”). (Prices vary from about $25 to $100.)
 imgres-39 Bob Crelin’s picture-book There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars (Sky Publishing, 2007), in simple rhyming text, describes the wonders of the night sky and their loss due to light pollution. For more information, visit the International Dark Sky Association at http://www.darksky.org.
 imgres-24 From the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, see the resource guide Dark Night Skies: Dealing with Light Pollution, which includes websites, books, articles online and in print, and activities for students.
 imgres-40 Bruce LaFontaine’s Constellations of the Night Sky (Dover, 2003) is a 48-page informational coloring book from Dover Publications.
 imgres-41 Enchanted Learning has a large collection of printable constellation connect-the-dot puzzles.
 imgres-42 Donna Young’s Pringles Can Viewer and Constellation Slides has printable constellation slides and instructions.
 imgres-43 For the ambitious, see How to Build an LED Plantetarium.
 imgres-44 Make Your Own Tin Can Pinhole Planetarium has illustrated instructions.
  This Shoebox Planetarium Project has complete instructions – suggested as a group project for learning constellations.
 imgres-45 Skymaps offers free printable monthly sky maps (both northern and southern hemispheres) and a monthly sky calendar of best objects to see with binoculars, telescope, or naked eye.
 imgres-24 Amazing Space has a gallery of Hubble images, “Tonight’s Sky,” a guide to currently viewable constellations and other night-sky objects, and a long list of terrific interactive explorations for kids on galaxies, comets, black holes, the solar system, and more.
 imgres-15 From NASA’s Space Place, Make a Star Finder has instructions and printable star-map patterns for each month of the year.
 imgres-46 See these instructions for making origami dream stars.
 imgres-47 From the Van Gogh Gallery, learn about and view Van Gogh’s Starry Night and other starry paintings. (Try painting one of your own.)

STAR STORIES

 imgres-48 Harriet Peck Taylor’s Coyote Places the Stars (Aladdin, 1997) is a picture-book tale of the irrepressible Coyote who climbs a ladder to the moon and there makes wonderful animal pictures in the sky by shooting arrows at the stars. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-49 Jerrie Oughton’s How the Stars Fell Into the Sky (Sandpiper, 1996) is a Navajo legend about the origin of the stars and constellations. First Woman is making a careful pattern – a “careful mosaic on the blackberry cloth of night” – until impatient Coyote decides to help. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-50 Jacqueline Mitton’s Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2006) pairs animal legends and a bit of scientific information with gorgeous silver-star-studded paintings by Christina Balit. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-51 Also by Jacqueline Mitton and Christina Balit, see Once Upon a Starry Night (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009) for star stories from Greek myths; and Zodiac: Celestial Circle of the Sun (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008), for science, history, and legends of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-52 Joseph Bruchac’s The Earth Under Sky Bear’s Feet (Putnam Juvenile, 1998) is a collection of poems based on tribal legends of the Sky Bear (Big Dipper), illustrated with oil paintings. For ages 6-12.
 imgres-53 They Dance in the Sky by Jean Guard Monroe and Ray A. Williamson (Sandpiper, 2007) is a 144-page collection of star myths from a wide range of Indian tribes, among them Navajo, Pawnee, Micmac, Tlingit, and Mohawk. For ages 9 and up.
 41eFej1QIBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Keepers of the Night by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac (Fulcrum Publishing, 1994) pairs native American star legends with activities, games, and science and nature experiments.

 THE SOLAR SYSTEM

 imgres-54 In Joanna Cole’s The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System (Scholastic, 1992), the planetarium is closed, so Miss Frizzle launches her class into space on board the magic school bus, where they take a tour of the solar system. Must of the information is delivered via hand-printed student reports. For ages 4-9.
 imgres-55 By Jacqueline Mitton – who has a Ph.D. in astrophysics – The Planet Gods (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2008) combines science with mythology and legends about the planets in our solar system. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-56 Seymour Simon’s Our Solar System (HarperCollins, 2007), illustrated with spectacular full-page color photographs, covers the sun, the planets and their moons, and asteroids, comets, and meteoroids. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-57 Astronomer David Aguilar’s 13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2011) brings readers up to date on the solar system, including its latest inhabitants, Ceres and Eris. Illustrated with wonderful photos and diagrams. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-58 Elaine Scott’s When is a Planet Not a Planet? (Clarion Books, 2007) is the story of Pluto, downgraded in 2006 from “planet” to “dwarf planet.” For ages 9-12.
 imgres-59 Also see Elizabeth Rusch’s The Planet Hunter: The Story Behind What Happened to Pluto (Cooper Square Publishing, 2007) for ages 4-8.
 imgres-60 Exploring the Solar System by Mary Kay Carson (Chicago Review Press, 2006) is “A History with 22 Activities” charting space science from its ancient beginnings to the present day. Attractive diagrams demonstrate planetary motion, the inner workings of reflector, refractor, and compound telescopes, and the anatomy of a rocket; colored boxes hold capsule biographies of such famous space scientists as William Herschel, Robert Goddard, Edmond Halley, Edwin Hubble, and Yuri Gagarin.  Projects include building a spectroscope (you’ll need an old CD), making craters in the kitchen, watching for satellites, taking a walk to Pluto, and making a map of the Moon. For ages 9 and up.
  The Thousand-Yard Model is an exercise for visualizing the (enormous) of the solar system. You’ll need peppercorns and pins.

SPACE EXPLORATION

 imgres-61 In Meghan McCarthy’s Astronaut Handbook (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008), four adorably pop-eyed kids head off for astronaut school. Readers learn what astronaut training is all about. Delightful for ages 4-8.
 imgres-62 Patrick O’Brien’s You Are the First Kid on Mars (Putnam Juvenile, 2009) stars a little boy in an orange space suit traveling to Mars via space elevator, space station, and Nuclear Thermal Rocket (which last travels at a thrilling 75,000 miles per hour), and finally arriving at a Martian colony populated by scientists and engineers. The book is illustrated with wonderful photorealistic paintings, peppered with interesting facts, and written in the second person, which gives the text a feel of you-are-there immediacy. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-63 Carole Stott’s Space Exploration (Dorling Kindersley, 2009), an Eyewitness book, covers each topic in a double-page spread, creatively illustrated with photographs. Topics include “What is space?” “Rocket science,” “Man on the moon,” “Space stations,” and “Landers and discoverers.” For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-64 Tanya Lee Stone’s Almost Astronauts (Candlewick, 2009) is a fascinating (and infuriating) photo-essay about 13 women who almost became astronauts – and by doing so, opened the way to space for women. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-67 Best, of course, would be to take a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – but, lacking that, there’s a lot of good stuff online. For example, check out the exhibit of artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission.
 imgres-68 Want to help search for extraterrestrial intelligence? Visit SETI@home and find out how.
 imgres-24 Discovery Education has a large assortment of space-based lesson plans for a range of ages. Among the titles: Space Milestones, Understanding Space Travel, and Life in Space.

 POEMS

 imgres-69 Laura Purdie Salas’s And Then There Were Eight (A+ Books, 2008) combines 15 poems about astronomy and space exploration with gorgeous color photographs. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-70 Douglas Florian’s Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2007) is an illustrated collection of catchy space poems for ages 5 and up.
 imgres-71 Amy Sklansky’s Out of This World (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012) is a clever collection of 20 illustrated poems about space travel and astronomy, with general information and cool factoids presented in sidebars. A great pick for ages 5 and up.
 imgres-72 Jack Prelutsky’s The Swamps of Sleethe (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009) – subtitled “Poems From Beyond the Solar System” – is a fun but creepy collection about aliens that you really don’t want to meet. For kids who like a touch of the scary. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-73 Walt Whitman’s When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer is not a plug for science. Go on. Discuss.
 imgres-24 This collection of Astronomy-Related Poetry includes selections by Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Sara Teasdale, and Edgar Allan Poe.
 imgres-24 Alan Shapiro’s Astronomy Lesson begins with two boys on the front porch, looking up.

 AND SOME SCIENCE FICTION

From the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Science Fiction Stories with Good Astronomy & Physics is a terrific (and long) categorized list.
 images-3 Jane Yolen’s Commander Toad in Space (Puffin, 1996)  is the first of a series starring the “bold and bright” Commander Toad and his crew on the spaceship Star Warts. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-75 Mark Kelly’s Mousetronaut (Paula Wiseman Books, 2012) (“based on a (partially) true story”) features Meteor, a very small mouse, who saves a mission on the space shuttle Endeavor. Includes a lot of helpful info about daily life on the space shuttle. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-76 In Mary Pope Osborne’s Midnight on the Moon (Random House, 1996), one of the popular Magic Tree House series, Jack and Annie go forward in time and end up at the International Space Station on the moon. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-77 In Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (Little, Brown, 1988), Chuck and David build a homemade space ship and head off in with odd little scientist Mr. Bass to the green planet of Basidium. For ages 8-11.
 imgres-78 In Adam Rex’s funny and delightful The True Meaning of Smekday, aliens known as the Boov have taken over the Earth and forced all humans to relocate to Florida. Eleven-year-old Tip Tucci and a renegade Boov end up on a wild cross-country trip trying to find Tip’s mother and, incidentally, to save the world. A riotous read for ages 8-12.
 imgres-79 In Jill Paton Walsh’s The Green Book (Square Fish, 2012), Pattie and family have left the dying Earth to settle on the new planet of Shine – though on this beautiful crystalline planet it soon becomes clear that they may not be able to survive. (Readers learn on page one that colonists are only allowed to take one book per passenger – which makes for a discussion right there.) For ages 8-12.
 imgres-80 By Stephen Hawking – yes, the Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy, in George’s Secret Key to the Universe (Simon & Schuster, 2009), George ends up traveling through space with the scientist next door, his daughter Annie, and a super-computer named Cosmos. There’s a lot of good science here – readers, for example, learn a lot about black holes – but the text can be labored. (“Why, George, science is a wonderful and fascinating subject that helps us understand the world around us.”) For ages 8-12.
 imgres-81 In Borgel (Aladdin, 1992), by the hysterically funny Daniel Pinkwater, young Marvin Spellbound is taken on an intergalactic road trip by his Uncle Borgel in search of the elusive Giant Popsicle. Uncle Borgel – who travels with 32 small black suitcases – turns out to be 111 years old and an experienced time-and-space traveler. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-82 In Mark Haddon’s Boom! (Yearling, 2011) best friends Jimbo and Charlie overhear two of their teachers talking in a strange language and – curious – decide to investigate. It turns out that they’re aliens, kidnapping science-fiction fans to repopulate their dying planet. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-83 In John Christopher’s The White Mountains (Aladdin, 2014), the Tripods – giant alien machines – have taken over the Earth. Young Will Parker – about to turn 13 and due to undergo the Capping ceremony that will put him under the Tripods’ control – instead runs away to the White Mountains, hoping to join the anti-Tripod rebels. For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-84 In Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (Square Fish, 2007), originally published in 1962, Meg Murry, along with her five-year-old genius brother Charles Wallace and friend Calvin, are transported across the universe with the help of the mysterious Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who (and a tesseract) to find Meg’s lost scientist father. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-85 Ray Bradbury’s classic The Martian Chronicles (Simon & Schuster, 2012) is a collection of short stories on the colonization of Mars. Titles include “Rocket Summer,” “The Settlers,” “The Old Ones,” “The Silent Towns,” and “The Million-Year Picnic.” A wonderful read for ages 12 and up.
 imgres-86 In Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky (Pocket Books, 2005), Rod Walker, who wants to be a professional space colonist guide, is sent to a distant planet with other members of his high-school class for a short survival test. Something, however, goes terribly wrong and the kids are stranded. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-87 In Ursula LeGuin’s The Word for World is Forest (Tor, 2010), the peaceful forest planet of Athshe has been colonized by yumans – us – who are exploiting the “primitive” green-furred natives. Talk about metaphors. A good discussion book for ages 13 and up.
 imgres-88 In Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (Tor, 1994), the government is training child geniuses as soldiers to combat a hostile alien race. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-89 In C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet (Scribner, 2003), Dr. Ransom is kidnapped by scientists Weston and Devine and taken to Malacandra (Mars), where they plan to turn him over to the sorns – the Malacandran natives – as a sacrifice. Along with the two sequels, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, these are not only exciting science fiction adventures, but raise issues of theology and ethics. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-90 In Douglas Adams’s irresistible The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Del Ray, 1995), Arthur Dent is yanked off Earth by his friend Ford Prefect – who is really an alien – seconds before the planet is demolished to make way of an intergalactic freeway. Always remember: (1) a towel is the most useful thing a space traveler can carry and (2) Don’t panic. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-91 Frank Herbert’s Dune (Ace, 1990) – set on the desert planet of Arrakis – is the story of Paul Atreides who joins the desert-dwelling Fremen and becomes the legendary leader Muad’Dib. The book is a rich combination of politics, environmentalism, and religion, with giant sand worms. For ages 13 and up.

 

 

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